An Introduction of Fluoropolymers | AGRU America

Fluoropolymer Basics

Kaylie: Hi, welcome, and thank you for tuning in to the AGRU America podcast. Joining me is Cody Miles. Together, we will introduce fluoropolymers and discuss their growing importance in modern industry.

Welcome, Cody.

Cody: Thank you, Kaylie.

Kaylie: We’re calling this podcast Fluoropolymers 101. Give us the rundown, how would you describe fluoropolymers? 

Cody: Put simply, they are a category of polymers that incorporate fluorocarbon bonds. 

Kaylie: I think it’s also important to mention that fluoropolymers are not new. They’ve been around since the late 1930s. Teflon likely being the most well-known example. 

Cody: True. And when I say fluorocarbon bonds, it is probably easier to just envision something like polyethylene and then mentally start substituting hydrogen with fluorine. At the end of the day, most fluoropolymers are still thermoplastics. 

Kaylie: Regarding the chemistry, the resulting carbon-fluorine bond that you mentioned is actually one of the strongest single bond types that exists. That carbon-fluorine bond is what helps contribute to many of the unique characteristics that we see in fluoropolymers including their resistance to solvents, acids, and bases at elevated temperatures.

Cody: I’m glad you mentioned chemical/temperature resistance. Because when summarizing the purpose of fluoropolymers, the answer typically comes down to creating products that can hold up to numerous conditions. 

Kaylie: For sure and I think the chemical industry is a great launching point to talk about fluoropolymer applications. Think of fertilizers, corn syrup, and common household cleaners. While the end product differs, the facility creating these products often require multiple process streams that use chemical components at elevated temperatures in order to reach the end product. In some cases, typical materials like carbon steel or stainless steel cannot hold up to all the chemistries.  

Cody: That is very interesting. Would you say fluoropolymers are always employed in those scenarios? 

Kaylie: That’s a tricky question to answer. In short, no. Fluoropolymers are expensive and there are few fabricators or companies offering finished products. Additionally, within the chemical plants themselves you will typically find the majority of the roles are filled with individuals who are experts in metals. Therefore, creating solutions with fluoropolymers is rarely the default or first choice. 

Cody: So even if a dozen startups show up tomorrow offering an entire catalogue of fluoropolymer products for the chemical industry, it’s unlikely to change the industry overnight. 

Kaylie: Yeah, not likely. Not only are those premade fluoropolymer products unlikely to perfectly suit the solution that is being made, but they are also not even the first material category to be considered. It is only when traditional metals fail or do not perform adequately that alternate solutions are examined. At that point, polyolefins and vinyl products are considered first, because they are cheaper and lighter than a fluoropolymer like PFA. 

Cody: So only when all else fails are fluoropolymers considered. 

Kaylie: Yes, fluoropolymers start being considered when solutions begin involving more exotic materials like Hastelloy, titanium, and nickel.  

Cody: You mentioned fabricators and finished products earlier. What did you mean by that?

Kaylie: Well, fluoropolymers are like any other raw material and need to be shaped into a product to serve a specific purpose. Manufacturers will often shape the material into forms that can be fabricated into a finished form. These semi-finished products come in many shapes and forms including sheet stock, round bars, lining materials with fabric backing, welding rod, and hollow tubes.  

Cody: Let’s say there is a component that isn’t holding up to a chemical process at my facility. After I’ve exhausted most options on the market how do I go about exploring my fluoropolymer choices to find the right one for me? Are there ways I could save time?

Kaylie: Yes! Actually, that’s a reason why AGRU exists. We consider ourselves the Plastics Experts and actively partner with customers to help them find the best long-term solution. So, whether you require a premier material PFA or a cost-effective solution like polyethylene, we help match you with the right thermoplastic. 

Cody: AGRU has been around for more than 70 years and has achieved global presence. What are some other benefits customers can expect from working with AGRU? 

Kaylie: First, AGRU maintains more than 10,000 distinct items to support customers from around the world. Our fluoropolymer products are actually produced at our Austria headquarters, but we maintain stock at various locations including our Andrews, South Carolina facility. Managing this stock is another way we ensure we can respond to our customers’ needs at a moment’s notice. 

Second, we maintain a large database of information and past use cases, leveraging that data to help inform future decisions. In fact, we cooperate with independent organizations to further our collective knowledge. We also maintain close relationships with various fabricators who use our products, which allows us to assist end users find an appropriate partner to fabricate their final products. 

Cody: Can you give some fluoropolymer examples and outline their differences? 

Kaylie: Yeah, there are many different types. PVDF, for example, does very well with most acids but not at lower temperatures or with bases and several types of solvents. ECTFE, on the other hand, performs better at a higher and lower temperature range while also adding in resistance to acids, bases, and many solvents. FEP and PFA perform very well at a wider temperature range, with PFA providing the best high-temperature resistance. Both of these also provide near-universal chemical resistance. 

Cody: To summarize, fluoropolymers include materials that are highly resistant to chemical attacks from solvents and acids at elevated temperatures. Some fluoropolymers are better suited for high- and low-temperature conditions as well as certain chemicals. Although they are generally not the go-to solution at the get-go, customers will typically turn to fluoropolymers once they’ve exhausted other options. By partnering with AGRU, customers can benefit by leveraging the company’s fluoropolymer expertise, years of manufacturing experience, and robust stock of products and network of partners.

Did I miss anything? 
Kaylie: I think for a crash course on fluoropolymers, you summed it up perfectly. And with that, I think this is a good point to wrap up this podcast. Thank you for joining me today, Cody. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. We hope that you’ve found this podcast informative. To learn more about fluoropolymers or other thermoplastic solutions by AGRU, visit us online at AGRU America dot COM.