[Theme Interview] Changing the Colors of the World with Hyosung’s Proprietary Technology

2018.02.22 10:14

Deputy department chief Seung-taek Oh finally succeeded, for the first time in the world in the area of CD PET continuous polymerization process technology which many countries had tried and failed, and has subsequently become the recipient of the Hyosung Employee of the Year award in Q4 of last year. Thanks to his discovery, we can now use more vivid colors with maximized beauty in our everyday lives. Let’s get to know this man who opened up a new chapter in the world history of textiles.

 Unraveling the mystery of CD PET

Everything started from crisis. CD (Cation Dyeable) PET, the main differentiated product of Nylon Polyester Fiber PU, was immersed in a crisis state of underproduction. The annual production through the batch process was about 7,000 tons, but, at the time, sales were exceeding 8,000 tons. Unlike ordinary PET, CD PET has splendid and vivid dyeing properties and thus results in high satisfaction with clients. The market was expanding rapidly, with China and India in hot pursuit of our lead. There was an urgent need to expand capacity to meet the excess demand, but at least 10 billion won would be needed to be invested for that. Furthermore, the process required high production costs and had an issue with quality variation.

Just in time, the RE-4 continuous polymerization process line that had been stopped at Ulsan Plant began to receive attention. Many companies including competitors made attempts but failed with ‘CD PET continuous polymerization process’. Deputy department chief Seung-taek Oh was chosen to be the one to unravel the mystery of this process, kicking off the project full-scale.

16 months later, in June 2017, the continuous polymerization process line in Ulsan Plant initiated operations. It proved to be a huge success. Gumi Plant manufactures yarn with the polymer and has since increased production without increasing capacity until now. Oh finally unraveled the mystery of continuous process that had remained elusive.

“CD PET has vivid and deep dyeing properties unlike other PET. This is because of copolymer DMS (Dimethyl 5-Sulfoisophthalate sodium salt) that assigns to these dyeing properties. DMS and PET polymer do not mix like water and oil, which makes it difficult to apply them to continuous processes. We adopted new special  reaction system to enhance reaction efficiency. We optimized various process requirements such as temperature, time and content. To have the CD PET verified, it must undergo polymerization process → polymerization property → spinning process → yarn property → fabric property. CD PET has sensitive features so the yarn cannot even be mounted in the first step if the polymer goes wrong even a little. I was really proud when the yarn was mounted and successfully spinning at Gumi Plant with the polymer made with such effort.”

 “Anything else to do?”

It wasn’t just the output that increased. The breaking of thread also decreased down to less than half as the quality was upgraded significantly. There were also remarkably less foreign substances which had been the chronic issue of CD PET, tripling the cycles and increasing job satisfaction of workers on site. Perhaps this is why Oh pointed out that these workers on site are the key to the project’s success.

“Have you ever seen someone say, ’We have to keep seeing one another for mutual development. Anything else to do?’ This is what Ulsan Plant PET Polymerization Team manager Sang-gon Lee asked me after the project’s success. If a researcher suggests and orders a new project, workers on site are bound to be skeptical that the plan may be imperfect, but Ulsan PET Polymerization Team openly discussed things and worked with me whenever I tried a new project. They stayed up a few nights with me for initial normalization, and their devotion encouraged me to make various attempts. I was extremely lucky to meet the members of Ulsan Plant PET Polymerization Team and Gumi Plant.”

Deputy department chief Seung-taek Oh who was chosen Hyosung Employee of the Year by succeeding in CD PET continuous polymerization process technology 02, 04 He could successfully complete the project by modestly and attentively listening to others 03 Oh resolved to achieve new innovation by constantly studying.

 Listening attentively is the power to overcome fear

Oh faced the most difficulty in overcoming ‘fear of failure and pressure’ during the project. He was confident throughout the entire testing process and all the theories, but it was a continuous process and thus may lead to a significant amount of loss if it is not normalized after operation. To overcome this pressure, he focused on basic work principles: to listen modestly, to find the root of the problem even if it takes time, and to keep in mind that it is all useless if someone gets hurt.

“Everything starts from listening carefully to many others. If you become the best in one field, it becomes even more impossible to solve all the problems by yourself. Since I might get a clue from even the most trivial opinions, I make efforts to listen to other people, data, books, research papers and patents. And it’s really important to find the cause if a problem occurs. Once you find the cause, you can set a clear goal and direction, which lowers the potential for failure. Polymerization requires workers to work at a high temperature of 300℃, so if even the slightest risk factor emerges, we stop all operations for the safety of workers.”

For Oh, the Hyosung Employee of the Year Award is both a carrot and a stick. It made him realize the joy of challenging oneself while also looking back on the things he must learn and improve. He is currently studying for a new project that makes PET car mats closer to the level of nylon. He is a smart and intelligent man who surprised us with a brand new discovery in the world, and at the same time, he is also the lead singer of Hyosung’s in-house band Hyobban. “I want to perform the second charity concert of the year,” claimed Oh, a little shyly. It is clear that the world becomes a better place as he moves forward, developing new technology and performing music.

 Thanks to Leading members of success!

I would like to thank the PU head, general plant manager Cheol-soo Kim, and managing director Bok-rae Cho for putting me in charge of this huge project and providing support. I would also like to thank team manager Young-cheol Ko for helping me make all kinds of reports and data for deliberation, director of R&DB Labs for giving me a lot of advice in each report, executive director Won Lee for intense discussions as well as team manager Mu-song Kim and other members of Polymerization Process Research Team 1, and Strategic Planning Team manager Han-seok Cho for helping me in the process of getting the award. I am also grateful for the great help in the CFD simulation and testing process given by section chief Sang-do Lee, and team managers Sung-jin Oh, Keon-sung Kim and Sung-joo Kim for helping me with research. Also, many thanks to Byeong-hee Won of Gumi Plant for producing good quality yarn, as well as team manager Seung-eun Lim, Seung-hwan and In-hwan.

Written by | Kyeong-min Kim

Photography by | Hae-joo Park (Day40 Studio)

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