Ravago provides a superior distribution, resale, compounding and recycling service for plastic raw materials serving sophisticated functions that improve the sustainable quality of life.

Interview with Ümit Makal, Tpu Business Unit Director at Ravago Turkey.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Ümit Makal: Ravago started manufacturing in Türkiye in 2001. Since then, constantly investing in plastics industry in the country either by acquiring new business or founding production sites. In 2013, Ravago combined all established and purchased local plastic raw material production companies under the roof of Ravago Petrokimya Üretim A.Ş (RPU). RPU is now one of the leading and most important plastic manufacturers in Türkiye and the region, operating in two production facilities (Taysad, Kocaeli and Aliağa, İzmir) with a total area of 255,000 m2.

The first production activity of RPU started with manufacture of Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) in Gebze, Kocaeli in 2001. It was followed by establishment of Engineering Plastics Business Unit in 2004. In 2019, these two product lines were moved to Izmir Aliağa facility next to our EPS business unit. I have to underline the fact that these materials are now produced using Industry 4.0 standards and guidelines. 

Polymerization and chemical systems activities are RPU’s next area of expansion. In 2011 the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) Business unit was established and became Türkiye’s first and the only TPU producer. After the acquisition of Polyurethane Systems Business unit in 2014, both businesses merged within our Taysad Kocaeli production facility.  The merger not only expanded our product range but increased our efficiency and presence in the PU sector.

The global purchase of Expandable Polystyrene (EPS) Business Unit took place in 2012. Our EPS production facility locate next to EP and TPE compounding plant in Aliaga /İzmir is Türkiye’s first and largest as well as Europe’s top three EPS production site.

The future of Ravago will be determined by the inherent drive of insiders: group members will continue to integrate and converge, the organization as a whole will continue to grow both internally (by attracting young talent) and externally (by being receptive for further expansion) and businesses will continue to adapt in line with rapidly changing environments.

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

Ü.M: First of all, I would like to point out that the chemistry of TPU is so diverse and extensive that by changing the type and loading of the monomers used in the formulation, a final product with very different performance and properties can be obtained. As Ravago, we manufacture some of our monomers ourselves which adds another degree of freedom to our process. In this sense, all of our formulations and processes are unique and developed only by us in Türkiye. Of course, we have a technology road map. We are on track towards achieving our challenging goals which we assigned to ourselves. Just to give you a few examples of the innovative products we have recently developed; TPUs with improved non-flammable properties to be used in the production of electrical vehicle charging cable applications, adhesive grades with different softening profiles for textile applications, new TPU formulations soluble in challenging solvents such as DMF, MEK or acetone, breathable and water-resistant grades, matte finish TPU grades for film and sheet applications, laser printable grades for animal ear tagging applications, special TPU formulations with tunable electrostatic dissipative (ESD) properties for demanding castor wheel and belting applications, PVC compatible TPU formulations, radiopaque TPU materials used in bio-imaging, TPU elastomers with high creep resistance used in conveyor applications.

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

Ü.M: We are the first and the only Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) producer in Türkiye. We manufacture TPU using the reactive extrusion process which proudly makes us the unique TPU supplier in our country. We are also the first and the only TPU production site in the whole Ravago Corporation globally, in other words we are exporting our in-house developed know-how to Ravago Corporate. TPU is one of the most valuable products that Ravago produces and sells under the trade name Ravathane® TPU.

TPU is a thermoplastic elastomer with excellent materials properties such as high wear resistance, elasticity, outstanding abrasion resistance, and very high mechanicals in addition to excellent chemical resistance. TPU can be used for all kinds of processes including injection molding, extrusion, blow molding, solvent cast, and lamination. 

Urethane chemistry is very versatile, by playing only with the initial monomer types and/or their overall loadings extremely different TPU formulations with different final properties are possible. We are basically taking advantage of this chemistry. We designed our own process all the way from QC’ing the raw materials up to drying silos. Everything we do is our own technology and know-how. This enables us to have a very broad portfolio of grades serving many different markets and applications such as shoes soles, pneumatic hose and tubing, a wide variety of injection and extrusion applications, automotive, conveyor belts, textile lamination, solvent cast processes, adhesives, profile extrusion, wire and cable, compounding, film applications, and many more.

Compared to competition our portfolio may be seen limited, but we are expanding our product offerings everyday which enables us to penetrate to new markets and applications. I can truly say that all of our new formulations become a brand-new commercial product at the end of the day. Having such technical capability makes us an irreplaceable development partner for our customers. In fact, we are developing specialized formulations with our customers (we call them development partners) for them to serve better to their customers. 

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

Ü.M: We are a new player in the TPU market, we are relatively small compared to competition making us very flexible and responsive. Thus, we see the whole market is in the emerging stage for us. Depending on our current capacity and capability we have defined certain markets to go after such as shoe molding or animal ear tag or profile extrusion markets to name couple of them, even though these are rather saturated they are all emerging for us. In addition, we are also serving to truly developing markets such as bio-based elastomers.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

Ü.M: TPU is a specialty elastomer with high value-added properties. First of all, we are very proud of being able to manufacture such elastomers both in Türkiye and in Ravago global. TPU is an elastomer with a very wide applications area. It is used in many different and various markets, from shoe soles to the fireproof cable sheathing. It is used in highly technical and critical applications. We strongly believe, in Türkiye there is a driving force to make specialized, highly technical, and value-added products to be competitive in the world. Here we come into the picture as we develop both technology and new products for such high-end markets with our business partners to contribute development of know-how in our country. This helps our customers to be competitive in their markets which would move our plastics industry from using commodity materials to specialty elastomers for high end and value-added applications. In that sense, we do not see ourselves a simple material supplier but a solution provider. With all these in mind we are highly motivated and working very hard to provide our customers the best service. 

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

Ü.M: We believe 2023 would have been very challenging and it has been that way so far. In the most recent years, we experienced too many fluctuations in the raw materials supply, availability, and costs. We saw changing profiles in our customers’ purchasing behavior, and changes in the mega trends in the world effect the consumer habits. We learnt our lesson and did our homework very well. I believe one of our most practical and valuable features is adaptability and flexibility. We adapt and respond very fast and quickly by developing solutions either by providing brand-new or improved formulations, or helping our customers out with their technical needs. This actually helps us to be a solution provider rather than a simple material supplier which is our long-term vision and this will not change in 2023.