Possibly the biggest use of phenolic resin is as a binder to join materials which would otherwise not have coalesced to form stronger end products. One example of this is the production of brake pads

Binder of materials: Phenolic resin continues long-standing importance in blending materials, now with WAG

IF YOU don’t know much about phenolics, you are not alone. The topic drew interest recently following West African Group’s acquisition of the distribution rights for phenolic resins in Southern Africa.

This came about as a result of SI Group’s termination of production and supply of these materials in South Africa. SI Group, a global business headquartered in USA, shut its production plant in Durban last year.

The transition from SI to West African Group (WAG) was straightforward as Demitri Loukidis, then the SI manager responsible for sales, had been using WAG as its distributor. WAG has since been appointed as the official distributor. WAG has developed a reputation for identifying key raw materials and handling sales, logistics and distribution in a seamless manner and supporting customers with a reliable service.

Since the transition of the SI Group portfolio to West African Group, ASK Chemicals Group completed the acquisition of the industrial resins business from SI Group in November 2021. With this transaction, ASK Chemicals Group, headquartered in Hilden near Düsseldorf (Germany), has strengthened its position as a global supplier of high-performance industrial resins relating to market segments such as friction, abrasives, insulating material and refractory products.

Loukidis has also transitioned to WAG, which has overnight become the leading supplier of phenolic resins into the rubber, adhesive and industrial resins sectors (previously Loukidis handled only the ‘bigger’ client users).

Phenolic resins are mostly used in the formulation of other materials and end products, chiefly as a binder, which is why few people out of the cycle would know much about them. But closer examination, however, reveals that the phenolic group of materials are one of the longest known building blocks used in the manufacture of synthetic goods, from as far back as the mid-1800s, when phenol formaldehyde (better known by the Bakelite tradename) was first used in the production of many widely-used household items such as telephones, combs and brushes, crockery … and in fact at that time a huge array of domestic items.

Since then, other materials have been used to manufacture such items, with these materials gaining ascendancy due to cost and faster production cycle aspects. Now HD, PP and a variety of engineering materials are used for these applications.

Our curiosity as to what applications phenolic compounds are used in today was perked up. Possibly the biggest use is as a binder to join materials which would otherwise not have coalesced, to form stronger end products. One of the most obvious examples of this is the production of grinder wheels and brake pads where the material is used to bond whatever grit/friction particles are required for the various applications within each segment.

Phenolic resins are chemically defined as compounds containing hydroxylated aromatic rings, the hydroxy group being attached directly to the phenyl, substituted phenyl or another aryl group. Many phenol compounds which make up round 60 to 80% of phenolic resins, were discovered and used long before chemists were able to determine their structures. The materials can be defined as plant substances, are widely distributed in the plant kingdom and are the most abundant secondary metabolites of plants. They are found ubiquitously in Algerian plant species, which comes as a surprise.

From a human physiological standpoint, phenol compounds are vital in defence responses, such as anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-proliferative activities.

But it is in industry where phenolics come into their own, and where they have continued for over more than a century-and-a-half to hold their own. They are a vital building block in rubber compounding to produce tyres and technical rubber products, and they are used very extensively in adhesives, coatings and brake pads, so you probably come into contact with items which are formulated with phenolics (whose production is made possible by their inclusion) on a daily basis.

Often the volumes supplied are relatively small – since the percentage ratios at which the compounds are used are often miniscule – but the values are high, presently selling at between R50 – R90+ per kilogram, underlining the vital role phenolics play.