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Cooperation aims to push PC glazing in Japan

Leading companies from the resin supply, moldmaking, and injection molding machinery industries have joined forces in a technical cooperation to help promote and support polycarbonate automotive glazing in Japan. Bayer MaterialScience brings its Makrolon-brand polycarbonate (PC) to the project, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries supplying its injection molding machinery expertise, and Kyowa Industrial its moldmaking prowess.

The cooperation will be at home in Mitsubishi's new technical service center at its headquarters in Nagoya City, Japan, where one of the company's electric two-component injection molding machines with reversing plate and 1450 tonnes of clamp force will stand ready for customer trials.

Bayer provides material know-how and processing technology developed at its global Glazing Center at its headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany. Volkhard Krause, head of the global Automotive Glazing team at Bayer MaterialScience, said, "We see excellent growth opportunities worldwide for polycarbonate automotive glazing, particularly given the increasingly strict emissions regulations in all leading industrial nations."

Switching from glass to PC for automotive windows would cut a vehicle's weight and thus also its emissions. Krauss notes that switching from glass to PC for large panorama roofs leads to weight savings up to 50%. Injection molding also offers design freedom compared to glass production.

Last summer Bayer installed a new 2300-tonne two-component Engel injection molding machine at the Leverkusen glazing R&D facility.

For PC suppliers, the automotive window glazing market is a huge opportunity to regain the pace of demand that they witnessed in the late 1990s during the heyday for compact and video disc production. According to Adrian Beale, global director for engineering thermoplastics at CMAI (Chemical Market Assoc. Inc.; Houston, TX), PC demand hit 20% in 1998-1999, but actually turned negative last year.

Demand last year was about 3.2 million tones, said Beale, and optical media remains the largest segment. By 2014, however, it will be overtaken by PC demand in electronics/electrical goods and sheet/film extrusion, especially for the building and construction market. "Automotive glazing could be the game changer for PC demand," predicted Beale, who spoke last week at the Plastics Recycling 2010 conference in Austin, TX, attended by MPW.—[email protected]

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