Royal DSM, based in Sittard, the Netherlands, has introduced ForTii Ace, a polyphthalamide (PPA) based on 4T chemistry that is being touted as "a new polymer" designed to help customers to "engineer the incredible." The new PPA offers excellent mechanical, thermal and chemical properties, and is specifically targeted at automotive die-cast metal replacement applications that require a high mechanical performance at constant-use temperatures as high as 150°C.
Automotive OEMs must take around 200 kg on average out of every car they make by 2025, if they are to be able to meet the stringent emission norms in major automotive markets around the world. Carmakers are looking for ways to lose weight on rotating parts, but are coming up against obstacles. Engine downsizing, designing with limited space, for example in transmissions, presents challenges that could be met only by developing a new polymer. “We needed a very stiff, mass producible material,” said Konraad Dullaert, global business manager for ForTii at DSM. A carbon fiber composite might have worked, but was far too expensive a solution, plus there was the risk of galvanic corrosion. So we needed a glass-fiber solution.”
He continued: “We made a material to meet all needs. A high-performance material filling the space between PEEK and high-performance PA, a next- generation PPA that is 40% stiffer and stronger that any PPA and PEEK available that is suitable for engine and transmission parts. It has a high chemical resistance, a linear performance from -40 to 160°C, and is very stable and robust in processing.”
According to Roeland Polet, President DSM Engineering Plastics, although DSM is specifically targeting automotive die cast application with the new PPA, another possibility could be the mobile phone market. “DSM is already working with Chinese OEMs, but other phone manufacturers are also interested,” he said
What about the price of the new material? “If it is going to replace metal, it has to be affordable,” said Dullaert. “It will be above PPA, but still single-digit pricing.”
Grades with various types of fillers and reinforcements, including glass and carbon fibres at addition rates of up to 50% are currently under development.
The development and launch of the new PPA fits within DSM’s strategy to focus on highly specified application development for global customers in "winning" segments such as automotive and electronics. The increasing trend toward more metal replacement is favorable for developments in engineering plastics. Dimitri de Vreeze, from DSM’s Managing Board of Directors said that there were “huge opportunities for materials growth going forward.” As he put it: “The old materials, such as caprolactam, don’t fit. Their CO2 footprint is much too big. At DSM, we are in the right spot with our PA 4.10 and 6.6. And our resins and Dyneema, for stronger and lighter products.”
He continued: “DSM has reinvented itself many times in its history. Now, we are looking at two major trends: global population growth and the aging of the population, and the problem of climate and energy. We respond to the former with our nutrition business, which is why we’ve been making acquisitions in that area. And to the latter through the development of new materials, and acquisitions. These two trends describe the winning company in the future.”
And biomaterials? “It’s difficult to build a substitution business,” said de Vreeze. “We are advocates of carbon pricing for the industry, which would stimulate people to think about the cost of carbon.”
“We’re also looking at CO2 as a feedstock – the “Holy Grail”. Commercializing applications using CO2 as a feedstock, well, we’re not there yet. But it will come. The breakthrough moment will come when we get CO2 pricing and legislation to back it up.”
He added that DSM was also engaged in a project aimed at reducing methane emissions, called CleanCow. “Cows are the single biggest emitters of methane on earth,” he explained. “Mainly because they burp.”
DSM has developed producing a feed additive to address the problem of so-called enteric fermentation. Trials of the new ingredient demonstrate a 30%-plus reduction in methane emissions with no negative impact on animal welfare, feed consumption or performance.
“It’s our biggest innovation platform right now.”