Melamine is everywhere
When DSM produced its first batch of melamine on January 7, 1967, it was the start of a revolution. Never before had the company used urea as a feedstock for melamine production[A1] . Today, its production technique is still state-of-the-art. The production processes have only gotten better and there are more uses for melamine than ever. It not only plays a role in the wood-processing industry, for example in laminates, but is also an important factor in interior design and in automotive paints and other types of coatings. Melamine has one overriding purpose: to extend the life of products.
The story of melamine begins in 1959, when Dutch State Mines planned to produce the chemical in the Netherlands. Because there was no suitable technology available, the company developed its own. DSM had plenty of urea available and the idea of using it to produce melamine was attractive. After perfecting the technology, DSM got approval to start building the first melamine plant, close to its existing urea plant, in 1963. Four years later, Melaf-1 came on stream and the company immediately decided to build a second plant, Melaf-2, and to expand the urea plant’s production capacity. In 1983 DSM produced its 500,000th ton of melamine. A third plant followed. The demand did not live up to expectations, however, and competition from Europe and Asia in the early 1990s put pressure on prices. In May 1994, Melaf-3 was dismantled, shipped to Indonesia and reconstructed there.
By that time, researchers in Geleen were working on a new, more efficient technology, known as Shortened Liquid Phase or SLP, which could produce melamine under high pressure. Melaf-4 was built in late 2002 based on this new technology.
In 2010, DSM Melamine and DSM Agro were acquired by OCI Nitrogen and continued operations under its name. We now produce 200,000 tons of melamine a year and have a worldwide network of customers, making OCI Nitrogen a global operator.
Iconic design and applications
Architects and interior and product designers have been making grateful use of melamine since the 1950s. Groundbreaking designs include Pastoe’s vintage cabinets and the Eames Lounge Chair. Thanks to melamine, these splendidly crafted pieces are not only durable but still look brand-new. Melamine is everywhere. It is used in paints and coatings that protect products against scratches, wear-and-tear, and water. It extends the life of wood products such as laminates and panels meant for kitchen cabinets and office furniture, making it possible to use fast-growing varieties of wood. It is also used in resins, coatings and paints for the automotive industry and as a fire retardant in furnishings and mattresses. As a durable product, melamine continues to be relevant half a century after DSM produced its first batch.