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June 1, 2003

10 Min Read
NPE Materials to take a leading role at NPE

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Featured in a prime-time television ad aimed at raising consumer awareness of GE products, this concept car holds court in the atrium of GE Plastics’ headquarters in Pittsfield, MA. The unpainted body panels for the car were injection molded using Lexan SLX, which imparts the look of paint using an inmold decorating process.

Resin suppliers will flaunt their new and improved wares aimed at better property mixes, lower costs, and improved molding productivity.

What have material suppliers been doing while the industries they serve have been weathering the economic storm? If you guessed research and development, you can go to the head of the class. In addition to entrenching themselves globally, most of the majors have turned to their sizable technical resources in an effort to create materials that meet specific needs at a price point that makes sense.

At NPE, attendees will be able to take a look at their efforts firsthand. For the time being, however, IMM has compiled a summary of what to expect from several of these suppliers. So let’s raise the curtain on the materials that may become the stars of tomorrow.

Bullish on the Future
At GE Plastics, the focus is on new product introductions and the R&D needed to make them happen. According to John Krenicki, who took over the position of president and CEO in January, the company is forging ahead with 1500 application engineers in the field to work with customers early in the design process. “We’re bullish on the future of our business, and we’re investing now to drive development of both applications and industries.”

Parallel to this effort is the introduction of more new products—based on both new molecules and blends—than at any other time in the company’s history. Of particular note are the Extreme resins, new versions of existing products that break outside the bounds of former property limitations.

For example, Lexan EXL polycarbonate promises greater toughness while maintaining clarity, a former trade-off now vanquished. GE added silicone into the PC molecular structure in a copolymerization process. This boosts impact resistance, processability and release properties, and UV weatherability. Also available in opaque versions, the resin’s added low-temperature impact strength and cold-temperature ductility to -40C allow it to withstand prolonged outdoor exposure. Target applications include eyewear, water bottles, medical devices, building and construction products, and lighting.

npe13.jpgIf you’ve seen the GE advertisement on prime time, you’re also aware of Lexan SLX, formerly called Sollx. The technology promises to replace paint and the $400 million paint line required for automobile exteriors. As previously reported in IMM, SLX meets requirements for high gloss and gloss retention, weatherability (seven to 10 years), and scratch and chemical resistance. The system works much like any inmold decorating operation. SLX film (a multilayer product with color and metallic effects located on separate layers for depth) is thermoformed to the shape of the intended part, trimmed, and then inserted into the mold and backmolded with resin. According to GE, compatibility with various resins can be tailored into the multilayer film.

To give birth to a new industry, the company is moving forward on development of plasma-coated polycarbonate glazing for automotive in conjunction with partner Exatec. Replacing glass in backlights, fixed windows, and sliding windows with PC takes 40 percent of the weight out while allowing greater design freedom via an injection moldable window.

Another offering involves a patented technology used to color polycarbonate resin with fluorescent dyes to add light piping to the edges of CDs and DVDs. The trend toward product differentiation among both content providers such as video game manufacturers and optical media replicators spurred the Edge Glow development.

During a recent press conference at GE Plastics headquarters in Pittsfield, MA, global marketing GM Greg Adams presented a series of megatrend predictions about several of the markets served by the IM industry. “A continuing focus on aesthetic differentiation in business equipment is being driven by increasing consumer awareness,” he explained, “so special effects and colorants will continue to play a strong role here.”

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To differentiate products from video games to movies for CDs and DVDs, GE Plastics developed its Lexan PC with Edge Glow, a fluorescent dye that imparts light piping to the edges of the disk.

Compound Interest
With specialty compounds on the rise in many market sectors, LNP Engineering Plastics (now a GE Plastics company) is riding the trend with a number of new material launches. First, there are Lubriloy Z and Lubriloy Z ECO FR resins, two internally lubricated alloys based on Noryl PPO resin technology. Benefits come in the form of improved wear performance, low specific gravity, a wide range of potential use temperatures, and improved impact performance over traditional PTFE lubricated materials.

Long-glass-fiber-reinforced Verton composites that combine structural properties, good aesthetics, and colorability will also be introduced.

ReadyServe, a new line of made-to-inventory products based on top-selling compounds, is touted as a means for molders to reduce inventory costs as well as to reduce the time required for developmental programs. These materials are guaranteed to ship within days at no premium to customers.

Halogen-free, red phosphorous-free Starflam flame-retardant PA 6 and PA 66 compounds are newly improved, and can be formulated to comply with tough environmental standards. Other features and benefits include a high relative thermal index and comparative tracking index, excellent glowwire test properties, faster cycle times with no plateout, laser markability, colorability, and a wide range of mechanical properties. These materials are ideal for microcircuit breakers, connectors, contactors, and a host of other electrical and electronic applications.

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These test parts show two new Leda compounded color effects from Bayer Polymers—a bright blue with a glowing edge called Deja Blue, and a metameric effect that color shifts between purple and green called Atlantis. Leda is part of the Fantasia line of colors and special effects, and both color effects are designed for use with the supplier’s Makrolon PC and Bayblend PC/ABS resins.

Casting Call
DuPont Engineering Polymers has turned its attention to design, processing, and material solutions that cut costs, reduce weight, and enhance product performance or appearance. “Especially now, our customers are pressured to get it right the first time, on time, and under budget,” says Jim Weigand, VP of sales and development. “Our challenge is to stimulate new ideas, deliver innovative solutions, create new materials, and to provide technical support to help our customers bring their products to market quickly, cost-effectively, and in a way consumers desire.”

To these ends, DuPont will introduce new functional, aesthetic materials at the show:

  •  Delrin Decorating Solutions, a new series of acetals that overcomes past limitations on decorating, can accept painting, printing, plating, foil stamping, and inmold decoration.

  •  For overmolding with TPEs, new grades of Delrin are teamed with Ponaflex TPEs for greater adhesion in applications such as conveyors, hand tools, and gears.

  •  Rynite PET combines structural capabilities with a high-gloss Class A surface, and is gaining growing acceptance in automotive applications such as roof appliqués for the new Saturn Ion.

  •  Plateable grades of Zytel HTN (high-temperature nylon) were developed to substitute for plateable ABS that cannot meet requirements for chemical resistance, high-temperature performance, stiffness, and/or strength.

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    Acetal and polyurethane compounds from LNP Engineering Plastics’ Lubricomp line of internally lubricated resins added abrasive wear resistance and smooth operation to Toro’s EZ Adjust sprinkler.

  •  A range of Zytel WRF polyamide resins will be exhibited, all of which incorporate Teflon PTFE micropowder and/or Kevlar para-aramid fiber for lower wear and friction than standard nylons without losing that resin’s other capabilities.

  •  Thermx PCT, a former Eastman Chemical resin recently purchased by DuPont, is a high-performance polyester that is able to withstand higher temperatures than standard polyesters while retaining dimensional stability and chemical resistance. For connectors and other electronic components, the material can withstand surface-mount assembly conditions, including use of lead-free solder.

  •  A new 75 series of Zenite LCP resins boasts higher impact resistance and elongation than earlier grades, also producing stronger weldlines for greater freedom in part and mold design for complex shapes.

    In addition, DuPont will feature a Productivity Corner at its booth to showcase several molding productivity enhancements. For example, a new pelletized additive concentrate for unreinforced PA 66 can cut cycle time and improve mold release in molding complex parts. According to company sources, in its first use in the field, an automotive molder achieved a 15 percent cycle time reduction in molding a complicated part in a minimum-draft tool.

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    Electronic connectors molded from DuPont Thermx PCT can withstand surface-mount assembly with either lead-free or conventional solder.

    PVC Alternatives
    As more OEMs move to phase out PVC in their products, alternatives are becoming hot properties. Kraton Polymers, for example, plans to introduce Kraton A, a resin family designed to offer a viable alternative to PVC and deliver added benefits as well.

    These elastomers, based on sytrenic block copolymers, have a distinctive molecular structure, controllable and tailorable for specific applications. Compounding further expands their application.

    Along with formulation flexibility and ease of processing, the new resins also have good dielectric properties and are reprocessible. According to company sources, these resins can be compounded to produce improved strength, elasticity, temperature resistance, softness, appearance, grip, and convenience for a diverse range of applications including toys, packaging, automotive, sports, and construction.

    Softer Touch
    Three new product introductions will highlight elastomer compounder GLS Corp.’s booth. First, the GLS/DSM technical joint venture to develop and sell Versalloy thermoplastic vulcanizate alloys will bear fruit with new Versalloy 8000 alloys, available in a range from 45 to 70 Shore A. Combining a balance of performance and processability at a competitive price, the product line also features good tear and tensile properties, better colorability, excellent flow, heat resistance (up to 125C), oil resistance, and isotropic shrinkage.

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    Automotive roof rack support combines DuPont Delrin acetal resin with Ponaflex thermoplastic elastomer in an overmolded application.

    Well known for soft-touch products, GLS will also exhibit a newly developed, supersoft (30 Shore 00) TPE called Versaflex CL2003, one of the softest commercially available TPEs on the marketplace today. It is a water-clear, nontacky, oil-free material engineered to meet the need for very soft applications, like gel inserts for bicycle saddles, shoe sole inserts, furniture arm rests, handles for brushes, personal care products, and grips for athletic equipment.

    Also on the agenda is a next-generation version of Versollan TPU, a rubberized thermoplastic urethane TPE alloy, which is now available in the softest grade in the industry at 45 Shore A. Based on a specialty thermoplastic polyurethane from BASF, this softer compound is targeted for handles—grips on hand and power tools, lawn and garden equipment, tractors, and sports equipment—that require a balance of high friction plus impact-resistant surfaces.

    Contact information
    Kraton Polymers, Houston, TX
    (800) 457-2866
    www.kraton.com

    GE Plastics, Pittsfield, MA
    (413) 448-5800
    www.geplastics.com

    DuPont Engineering Polymers
    Wilmington, DE
    (800) 441-0575
    www.plastics.dupont.com

    GLS Corp., McHenry, IL
    (815) 385-8500
    www.glscorp.com

    LNP Engineering Plastics
    Exton, PA
    (610) 363-4500
    www.lnp.com

    Bayer Polymers Americas
    Pittsburgh, PA
    (877) 229-3758
    www.bayerfantasia.com

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