Exatec and ULVAC join vacuum, plasma coating, and PC for glazing advance

Exatec (Wixom, MI) and Japan's ULVAC will collaborate on turnkey mass-production systems for the cost-effective, high-volume production of weatherable, scratch-resistant, plasma-coated Lexan polycarbonate (PC) vehicle windows. Exatec, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of SABIC Innovative Plastics that's focused on PC glazing, has paired with ULVAC, a specialist in mass-production vacuum technologies, on the project that will mix the latter's expertise with Exatec's proprietary plasma-coating technology for PC glazing.

In addition to creating PC glazing that can withstand the rigors of driving while reducing vehicle weight so OEMs can satisfy stricter fuel-economy/emission standards, the companies say the collaboration could also support developments in other industries, including consumer electronics, where durable and abrasion-resistant coating solutions could be used in a variety of products.

"Weight-out solutions"
To help satisfy new standards, Exatec's McMahon points to the "exceptionally high potential for weight-out" that can be derived from plasma-coated Lexan PC glazing. "Pressure to reduce vehicle emissions is increasing worldwide, requiring automakers to implement weight-out solutions that can also meet rising demand for superior quality and durability," McMahon said.

McMahon said his company's relationship with ULVAC will "build the path to large-scale production," of plasma-coated Lexan PC glazing. Potentially transformational changes to vehicle emission and fuel economy are planned in major automotive markets in coming years. For the U.S., new rules mandate that by 2016 vehicles must get an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. In Europe, mandatory reductions of CO2 emissions call for 130g CO2/km (0.46 lb/mile) in 2015 for the average new car fleet, and 95 g/km (0.35 lb/mile) by 2020.

Exatec's plasma coating boosts the abrasion resistance of SABIC's Lexan PC for glazing while not impacting clarity. ULVAC's technology reportedly features a high deposition rate through a continuous process, with the ability to coat parts that come in complex shapes and a range of sizes. In March, SABIC's PC competitor, Bayer MaterialScience (Leverkusen, Germany) announced a collaboration among itself, injection molding machine supplier Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and moldmaker Kyowa Industrial to promote and support PC automotive glazing in Japan. 

Lighter and safer?
According to the American Chemistry Council (ACC; Washington DC), PC glazing would represent a 40-50% weight reduction compared to laminated glass, where PVB film is sandwiched between two sheets of glass. The same ACC study said that from a safety standpoint, approximately 7800 vehicle occupants are killed in rollover and side-impact accidents after being ejected through shattered tempered-glass side windows.

ULVAC's sputtering system
Exatec will use ULVAC's sputtering tech for plasma deposition.

In a report on PC made during Chemical Market Associates Inc.'s (CMAI; Houston) World Petrochemical Conference, CMAI's Adrian Beale said that PC demand growth, which had typically been driven by optical media, was increasingly being influenced by advances in the automotive sector. Beale pointed out that PC had already largely replaced glass in headlight and tail-light lenses for cars and trucks, as well as in motorcycle windscreens. Beale said that if PC overtook glass for all automotive glazing, an additional 1.525 million tonnes of PC demand (nearly half the existing amount of global demand) would result. [email protected]



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