With product differentiation becoming a key marketing advantage, especially in consumer products, appearance can be a driver in material selection. The wish to provide a number of alternatives has prodded GE Plastics to develop a whole group of special effects in its existing resin lines. GE Plastics? new Visualfx materials are based on Lexan polycarbonate, Cycolac ABS, and Cycoloy ABS/PC blends, and process with similar requirements.
One of the new effects is called Light Diffusion, which is based on GE?s Lexan PC. More than just a transparent, colored material, the Light Diffusion resin has the ability to display a translucent look, yet still hide specific internal components of an application for aesthetic appeal, according to the company. For example, if a sheet of the material is held close to a page of text, the words are clearly visible. However, as the distance between the material and the page increases, the text becomes blurry, as would an internal component of a molded part.
A printer by Tektronix, pictured below, was molded from the diffused PC to complement Apple?s G3 computers. In addition to a colored blue version, it used GE?s Frost effect in the Light Diffusion line, which is designed to emulate the clouded look of frozen water. The effects selectively hide internal components in thicker portions of the casing, and can also help to cover molding flaws such as sink marks, knitlines, and flow lines, say GE sources.
Another effect, called Magix?previously available as part of the Cycolac ABS line?has been expanded to GE?s Cycoloy ABS/PC product line. Because additives are in the resin, no secondary operations are necessary to create stone, granite, metallic flake paint, gunmetal, or quartz effects, among others. High gloss or matte finishes can be produced, and the manufacturer reports good batch-to-batch consistency. Flame-retardant grades of Cycoloy Magix resins have also been developed.
Perhaps the most eye-catching of the effects is called Intrigue, which provides a color-shifting appearance (known as angular metamerism) with changes in the viewing angle. Based on Lexan polycarbonate, the color shift is created using specialty pigments in the plastic. A thin, multilayer light interference flake structure that is opaque, flat, and reflective makes up the pigment; the color is then generated when this layered construction causes light-wave interference. Smooth, high-gloss applications show the best color shift, as opposed to coarser textures that do not reflect light. GE sources suggest the Intrigue effect would be good for applications in consumer electronics, sports equipment, automotive components, interior design, and architecture. Eight color combinations are currently available, with more on the horizon.
The final two effects are Speckle and Marble, and Energy. The first is a dense material consisting of a solid background color with flecks of one or more colors; the second provides a brightly colored glow.
All of the new resin effects are designed to be run in existing equipment. However, says GE, when switching from an opaque material to a translucent one, the part may require internal redesign to hide ribs and bosses, for example. Also, the performance of very small, complex parts may be affected by the flake additives.
Pricing information was not made available for the new effects.
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