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Conductive Carbon-Fiber Thermoplastics Edge Aluminum in Structural Applications

Image: BASF polyphthalamide (PPA) portfolio
BASF’s new electrically conductive grades of carbon-fiber-reinforced polyphthalamide can replace heavier aluminum and magnesium without a loss in stiffness or strength.

BASF is expanding its polyphthalamide (PPA) portfolio of Ultramid Advanced with carbon-fiber-reinforced grades with fillings of 20, 30, and 40%. These electrically conductive grades can replace heavier aluminum and magnesium without a loss in stiffness or strength.

The new grades combine these properties with the advantages of Ultramid Advanced N (PA9T) — dimensional stability, chemical and hydrolysis resistance, and high strength and modulus — which makes them unique among carbon-fiber-reinforced PPAs already available in the market. The new carbon-fiber (CF) reinforced grades can be used to manufacture automotive structural parts for body, chassis, and powertrain; pumps, fans, gears, and compressors in industrial applications; and stable and ultra-lightweight components in consumer electronics. With this offering, BASF complements its PPA portfolio of more than 50 grades already available on the market.

The mechanical performance of the new CF-reinforced PPA grades can be tuned by the choice and content of the carbon fiber as well as by the additive technology. Ultramid Advanced N3HC8 with 40% carbon-fiber filling shows a better strength and modulus at 80°C (conditioned) than magnesium or aluminum. "Our new PPA compounds with carbon fibers are the ideal metal replacement," said Michael Pilarski from PPA business management at BASF. "And this not only from a material property point of view. Lately, we have seen safety issues at magnesium producers in different countries, which makes the supply rather unpredictable.

“Producing parts out of magnesium or aluminum also requires additional post-processing and tooling, which increases system costs. Given the opportunities for 25 to 30% weight reduction with our new PPA grades, we can offer a safe, cost-efficient, and high-performance alternative for parts traditionally manufactured from metal," said Pilarski.

Ultramid Advanced CF grades can contribute to functional integration and weight reduction in different industries. For example:

  • The range of cars with e-drive or fuel cell engines can be increased by weight reduction of structural or powertrain parts;
  • lightweight, thin precision structures in consumer electronics benefit from the stiffness and strength, dimensional stability, low weight, and processability of the new PPA materials;
  • heavy, highly loaded, and long-lasting industrial equipment like pumps and compressors can be easily produced because of the dimensional stability as well as chemical, heat, and abrasion resistance of the new CF grades.

The CF-reinforced PPA compounds also show a lower weight and higher tensile modulus than glass-fiber-reinforced polyamides (PA) with similar reinforcements. PPA grades reinforced with 20 wt% carbon fibers are about 20 wt% lighter than PA6 or PA66 filled with 50% glass fibers. The tensile strength of a 20% CF-reinforced Ultramid Advanced compound is either better or equivalent to a glass-fiber-reinforced polyamide filled with 50% while showing better processability. Ultramid Advanced N3HC8, for example, is very stable after aging at high temperatures — it retains nearly 100% of its tensile modulus after heat aging at 120°C for 5,000 hours or at 150°C for 3,000 hours.

BASF’s PPA portfolio is based on four polymers: Ultramid Advanced N (PA9T), Ultramid Advanced T1000 (PA6T/6I), Ultramid Advanced T2000 (PA6T/66), and the longstanding Ultramid T KR (PA6T/6). The portfolio includes more than 50 compounded grades for injection molding and extrusion with or without flame retardants. The compounds are available in different colors; with short-glass, long-glass, or carbon-fiber reinforcement; and with various heat stabilizers.

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