Dow throws down the gauntlet


Chris Anderson

MIDLAND, MI—The Dow Chemical Co., boasting global sales of more than $23 billion in 2000, recently leapt into the critical environments market with the introduction of the INTACTA IC 1000 polyurethane glove that the company touts as having “excellent ESD properties and extremely low extractables”.

In early September, Dow announced the INTACTA gloves would be distributed in the United States by Fisher Safety Co., a division of Fisher Scientific (Pittsburgh, PA).

The gloves are made using Dow's process technology that uses an aqueous polyurethane delivery system as opposed to solvent-based delivery. The result, Dow says, is a glove that is less expensive to manufacture yet still maintains the beneficial characteristics of polyurethane. The gloves will be priced to be competitive with nitrile gloves currently on the market and silicone-, powder- and NRL-free which addresses a growing concern of allergic reactions to these substances.

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“We believe this glove will make a strong impact on the market, because of its inherent characteristics of lower contamination levels which lead to higher productivity,” says Patty Mishic, marketing manager with Dow.

But how will Dow's presence effect the already crowded critical environment glove market, where smaller companies are the rule not the exception? Industry executives say it is still too early to tell, while noting that the market today is much smaller than it was even two years ago, as the semiconductor industry settles into one of its cyclical valleys.

Dow Chemical jumps into the crowded cleanroom glove market with its INTACT IC 1000, shown in action above.
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“Welcome to the world of gloves,” says Roger Gass, CEO of TechNiGlove International Inc, Yorba Linda, Calif.-based glove manufacturer. “It's a tough, tough market out there right now and one that is very different from when they started to develop this product.”

But Mishic says this makes it a particularly good time to be bringing a new glove to market. “We think this will help us in the long run,” she says. “We can get a feel for how the market is accepting it, how the glove is performing and it's easier to do that in this market.”

Nevertheless it will take a lot of work to get the glove established, says Richard Renehan, president of Renco Inc. (Manchester-By-The-Sea, MA), whose gloves have been used by NASA and Argonne National Labs. “It's just not that easy to get companies to switch,” he says. “First of all, it is a very long sales cycle, as long as 18 months in some cases, and cleanroom managers are going to be reluctant to introduce an unknown variable into the process.”

Mishic says she clearly understands the challenges that Dow will face early on, but is confident they can be overcome. “I think the first thing we understand, and that this glove addresses, is that fabs are facing more stringent requirements in the cleanliness of their manufacturing,” says Mishic.

Dow hopes these characteristics, as well as the fit and flexibility of the gloves, will win them customers. In the meantime, Dow will monitor competing gloves on the market—everything from PVC to nitrile and other polyurethane gloves. “How the market reacts is yet to be seen,” Mishic says. “Right now we are just trying to judge [the competition] and provide a better glove to the market.”


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