This year KLF Tecnokimica turns 20, but with the pragmatism that distinguishes him, Marco Frediani chooses to avoid rhetoric and goes straight to the point. “Instead of talking about us, I prefer to talk of the real problems tanners encounter daily in order to meet the sustainability requirements, and therefore to talk of the solutions our company is able to offer to the market in regard to the more urgent themes” tells us the leader of the company in Castelfranco di sotto (Pisa) that specializes in the production of chemical products destined mainly for the wet stage of the tanning process.
An extremely contemporary subject is certainly that of formaldehyde, which is present in free form in many products used in the tanning sector. What are the solutions that KLF offers in order to avoid its use or at least reduce the levels of formaldehyde detectable in finished leathers?
“First of all, as far as formaldehyde is concerned, we must say that all levels of formaldehyde contained in our products and in particular in synthetic tannins have been reduced to a minimum. For products such as dicyandiamide and melamine resins, we provide alternative solutions such as FILTAN SLF and FILTAN MFF. Their content of formaldehyde is close to zero, with excellent technical results. In our laboratories we have developed a line of auxiliary tanning and retanning agents with zero formaldehyde content that can be used in various ways in order to meet the market’s main requests. The finished leather obtained this way is formaldehyde-free, with a low content of sulphates in the processing baths. The results can be verified on extremely different products: we obtain soft, full nappa leathers, tough leathers for shoes, extremely reactive semi-vegetalized leathers, soft-resilient leathers for furnishing or extremely soft leathers ideal for clothing. For these processes the use of our retanning polymers and fattening polymers is of fundamental importance (FILTAN XS, FILTAN PAN, FILTAN GUM, LEDERTAN RC and LEDERTAN STM). If, instead, the tanning process requires the use of formaldehyde, we suggest using PAROLIT PH, a specific formulation capable of reducing to a minimum the free formaldehyde detectable on finished leather”.
The black sheep is hexavalent chrome. What products do you suggest to prevents its formation?
“The mechanisms that lead to the oxidation of trivalent chrome, transforming it into chrome VI, are influenced by several variables, which go from the kind of fatliquoring agent used to the thermal stress that leather experiences during processing or stocking. In order to prevent its formation, we suggest the use of PAROLIT CR, which inhibits the oxidation of leather even after artificial aging. We have been testing it for two years and we can safely say that the product gives an effective response”.
Let us talk of fat liquors. What is new?
“A new active principle, the result of a research of ours carried out in collaboration with the University of Pisa, has led to the development of a low-concentration and high-performance polymeric fat liquor, highly effective, with an extremely low COD of the baths (that is to say, the polluting load). It is called SOLFOIL XW300, around which we have studied a line of products from which soft and extremely light leathers are obtained. Thanks to the high resistance to light and the extremely low extractability, it is also ideal for realizing technical items such as varnishes and bodywork”.
What stage has the research into a metal-free tanning system reached?
“Maybe the market is not ready yet, but we are. I strongly believe in the validity of the metal-free tanning process we have developed in KLF. The finished leathers processed with our system present incredible softness characteristics with full, bright colours, really spectacular”.
More generally, from the technical point of view, what is the challenge still to be won?
The market requests increasingly even leathers, where the looseness of the grain is practically absent on the entire surface of the leather. Now, the challenge lies in the very nature of leather, which is different in each of its parts and reacts in different ways; unfortunately we are not able yet to “guide” the chemical products within the very tanning bath, the chemical reaction depends on the collagen structure of leather, which is different from area to area in the same leather; on the side, the product responds in a certain way, on the back or on the breech, it responds in another, thus the result is always different. In order to be able to make the whole perfectly even, we need alternative technologies with chemical products that can have a decisive impact to achieve the desired results. For this reason, KLF Tecnokimica is always searching for new active principles that can have an impact on these results”.
How was this first part of the year for KLF?
“Like last year, which went well on the whole. Uncertainy is what weighs on future prospects. The worldwide leather market is not stable, we play it by ear and this, unfortunately, ends up being a limit, because it makes it impossible to plan long-term strategies”.
What is your strength on the market?
“We produce internally the products we sell, a fundamental difference these days, because besides the competitive advantage, this condition allows us to offer our clients much more precise information that concretely helps our clients to respect the regulatory requirements”.