From colorful dyes to high-performance plastics

Cradle of the optical disk

Krefeld-Uerdingen became a city of chemical dyestuffs and later a Covestro site all because a young man once rebelled against a family tradition. Hard to believe, but apparently true…
Krefeld-Uerdingen
On the bank of the Rhine: Covestro in Krefeld-Uerdingen.
A “City of Velvet and Silk” are the words on Krefeld’s coat of arms. The city on the Lower Rhine in the western part of Germany has been influenced for centuries by the textile industry. Even today, people like to call it “Tie Town” and for good reason: eight in ten men’s ties sold in Germany are associated with Krefeld businesses in some way.

So it’s no wonder that the rebellious young man, Edmund ter Meer, came from a family of silk manufacturers, whose ancestors were linen and wool ribbon weavers. The only problem was that he wanted nothing to do with yarn . . .

He fulfilled his dream: in 1877, his small chemistry company began producing synthetic dyestuffs. The aniline and azo dyestuffs were something entirely new at the time. The new process enabled the silk industry based in Krefeld to produce colored materials at low cost.

Roots to the 19th century

Not surprisingly, Bayer AG was attracted to this location and its existing infrastructure. The Uerdingen site was integrated into “Farbenfabrik Bayer AG” in 1951. Just two years later, in 1953, chemist Hermann Schnell invented the polycarbonate Makrolon® here, and industrial manufacturing was launched there in 1958. This high-tech plastic is extremely versatile and used for a wide variety of applications, including CDs, lenses/eyeglass lenses, solar modules and roof structures.

The plastics business was transferred to a separate company, Covestro, in 2015. Today, Uerdingen is still the world’s largest production site for Makrolon®, and also number one for polycarbonate in general in Western Europe. In addition to granules, the site produces MDI, a precursor for rigid polyurethane foam that is used, for instance, to insulate buildings. Just under 1000 Covestro employees work in Uerdingen on grounds covering 18.5 hectares.