David Johnson, sales director for Wessex Resins and Adhesives

JEC Composites Magazine spoke to David Johnson, sales director for Wessex Resins and Adhesives at Wessex Resins, about the use of biobased resins by end users from the marine and leisure industries as well as the recent impact of geopolitical turmoil on the company’s industrial and commercial operations.

David Johnson, sales director for Wessex Resins and Adhesives

3 minutes, 50 secondes

JEC Composites Magazine: How is the market of biobased epoxy faring right now in the boat building and yacht engineering sector? Are exports going upwards? In which main geographical areas are your products present?
David Johnson: “Our company is based in the UK on the South coast of England in a town called Romsey. It has one factory and 38 employees. We manufacture West System epoxies, Pro-Set epoxies, which have a part biobased range dedicated to high-end boat building, and we also produce Entropy resins, which is a biobased brand aimed at winter sports, surf and hobbies like casting jewellery for example.  They all are American brands which we have been manufacturing for the European market under license from Gougeon Brothers Inc. for over 40 years now.

We have 35 distributors spread all around Europe, the UAE, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt. All distribution outlets have reported enhanced business, particularly over the last 12 months. The level of business did not decrease during the covid period: we even achieved a 7-12% sales increase during this period. But one would have to be suspicious that at some time, there would be either a levelling or a descending level of business in the future.”

David Johnson onboard Spirit Yacht

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you name us a few examples of companies using these products?
David Johnson: “The Pro-Set brand has been very successfully implemented using our biobased epoxy by Spirit Yachts. The outer structure of these wooden boats, engineered for a very long lifespan has been sheathed in flax and one of the Pro-Set G series biobased products. The Entropy resin brand is also used by ski and snowboard UK manufacturers such as Douk, a company based in Worcestershire.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Did you notice a Covid effect on your sales?
David Johnson: “Before the Covid crisis, we invested quite heavily in extra-storage for raw materials and it was perfectly timed because during the pandemic, not only the cost of raw materials, but also their pure and simple availability was a significant factor in being able to supply. Although raw materials prices did increase, we were able to deliver the bulk of the demand during the crisis.”

JEC Composites Magazine: How does the conflict between Russia and Ukraine impact your operations?
David Johnson: “With the war between Russia and Ukraine, prices are still high and I doubt whether they will come down significantly. Energy prices have been affected of course worldwide. Heating a large space to build a boat is expensive. Wise companies have signed contracts with suppliers that last over the new year. Yet, heating and lightning prices will surely be increasing in 2023. Somebody at some point will have to pay for that. Undoubtedly, it will be the end user and customer.”

David Johnson sharing PRO-SET products information Wessex resins

JEC Composites Magazine: What is the main concern companies have when considering the switch to biobased epoxy? Is it performance, price, ease of use?
David Johnson: “There is still a little reservation about using these materials until more is known about or understood about biobased epoxies. If we get back to the emergence of glass fiber boats in the 50’s, the success was not instant either. Actually, the recognition that glass fibers could also be stronger than wood and be less expensive to construct was rather slow. From my point of view, there is a similar enthusiasm for boats that are constructed with natural fabrics and bio resins. We have a range of bio resins but what we’ve done is that we’ve arranged the formulations on originally oil-based ones that have good heritage. This is a very good way of achieving confidence with customers because we have some case studies.

Our air customers are focussed on performance. And our biobased epoxy resins are high performance products. The fact that they are biobased does not come at the expense of their performances. That means that the bio content right now is noticeable and wholesome. But as chemistry research and technology move on and with bio raw materials being increasingly available, we might achieve a higher bio content as well. We even might have bio content hardeners. Used sensibly, they should not affect the performance adversely and guarantee a good life span as well. The Gougeon Brothers’ laboratory is very helpful in this regard.”

JEC Composites Magazine: Are they ‘drop in’ replacements for standard epoxies or do production processes have to be changed?
David Johnson: “For formulators like us it means having and mastering the necessary knowledge – in blending in particular – to change formulations in order to accommodate the biobased epoxies. We have a range of PRO SET G series and infusion epoxies and a selection of adhesives. All have a roundabout of 25 to 32% of biobased content. When it comes to the use by the customer, there is very little that will indicate that this is a biobased product. If they were using some of their oil-based standard products, they would not discern any difference.”

JEC Composites Magazine: You are mentioning that the « bio-content comes from a waste stream that would otherwise go into landfill ». Is it easy to maintain a continuous flow of supply and a satisfying one from a qualitative point of view?
David Johnson: “The waste we use to manufacture our biobased products is USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) certified organic waste. For obvious intellectual property reasons, I cannot tell you what this organic waste actually is but it is always readily available as it is sourced from a high-volume area of manufacturing. This is a by-product anyway which would normally have gone into landfills so by using it in our process, we suppress its CO2 footprint, so to speak.”

More information www.wessexresins.co.uk