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September 1, 2001

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WEB EXCLUSIVE:Materials Update: K 2001: Materials trends

Editor's note: This section begins IMM's coverage of the K 2001 show, held in Düsseldorf, Germany Oct. 25 to Nov. 1. Click here for a preliminary report on molding-related equipment and technology to watch for in Düsseldorf.

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The transparent panel in the rear of this Mercedes-Benz C-class sports coupe is made of Makrolon PC. Bayer improved the properties and transparency in a new grade of this polycarbonate that will be at K.

At K 2001 there will be a huge gathering of materials suppliers, encompassing not only the big players but smaller European-based suppliers as well. Here's a taste of what to expect. 

Bayer will showcase a new grade of its polycarbonate Makrolon, DP1-1848. The material has been developed with a new set of properties and good transparency. It is actually a copolycarbonate of bisphenol and works well with applications that involve extreme temperatures. 

Possible uses in colder conditions include breakproof containers for cold storage, buckles for ski boots, and visors for snowbobs and other snow vehicles. For warmer environments it is suitable for lamp and lighting components. The material can be placed close to heat sources, thereby reducing overall product size. Also, because it can be sterilized with hot steam, the new grade can be used in medical applications such as infusion manifolds, specimen holders, and test tubes. In addition, the new grade is reportedly colorable and retains its dimensional accuracy at temperatures greater than 100C. 

Bayer will also tout its Contura heat-management system developed jointly with Innova Engineering GmbH (Menden, Germany). The system makes it possible to equip the injection mold with a cooling channel system that closely follows the contours of the component. The technology first was introduced in Europe in 1994 and is now used in 3000 European presses. Contura is a 3-D conformal mold-cooling system that separates the mold core into slices, inserts water channels, and bonds them together using patented vacuum brazing technology. This vacuum brazing technology also is used in aircraft turbine engines and this system reportedly leads to quicker heat dissipation than with conventional cooling systems. Cooling time is halved and the injection molding process is reportedly sped up by an average of 30 percent. 

Just in time for the show will be Bayer's launch of Global BayerOne, a website that brings all transaction portals currently existing in the Bayer's business groups together, to form an integrated "one face to the customer" global interface. With an official launch of Oct. 1, customers will be able to place and track orders and receive electronic order confirmation. It is also possible to obtain up-to-the-minute information about the status of an order at any time. The website is part of a $1.7 billion investment by Bayer in its Polymers Business Segment this year. 

Also at the Bayer stand look for demonstrations of new software that calculates and predicts design and processing properties of molded parts. Integrated into the website, the program can be used to calculate the permitted load limits for Bayer thermoplastics as a function of the type of load application, processing temperatures, and part thickness in a temperature window from -40C to the softening point. In addition, it is possible, via the demolding behavior, to determine the shrinkage, gate-open or setting time, and process times for manufacturing the molded parts. 

"Join a New Time" is the theme for Dow Plastics at K 2001, which refers to the company's new stage in its growth strategy. At the show Dow will discuss and highlight recent business ventures, such as MyAccount@Dow and the completion of its merger with Union Carbide Corp., which is expected to provide growth opportunities across market segments and geographies. Dow completed its merger Feb. 6, 2001 with Union Carbide. 

When visitors enter GE Polymerland's stand, they will find five sections greeting them—products, services, technology, distribution, and business solutions. The products section will highlight the company's latest developments, such as the new weatherable Sollx film that can produce Class A molded-in color surfaces without painting or clear coating. The show will be the site for the European launch of Xylex resin, which allows the use of transparent or opaque special effects while maintaining ductility and chemical resistance. Also in the Products section is GE's latest alloy, Noryl PPX, a blend of PPE and PA that contains the basic properties of high-end polyolefins and engineering thermoplastics. According to GE, it is a good replacement for traditional materials such as nylon and steel because of its high level of stiffness, toughness, and heat resistance. It is targeted for applications such as automotive bumpers, instrument panels, and front ends, as well as power tools and food trays. The resin currently has three unfilled and two filled grades. 

In the services area, GE will exhibit its new line of Visualfx effects materials, which not only includes a portfolio of color effects, but also offers design and technical services for designers. The new Visualfx effects materials are based on trend research in product style and design by Peclers of Paris, a fashion forecasting agency. Launched in 2000, the Visualfx special effect materials are made of Lexan, Cycloloy, Noryl, and Cycolac. A "fashion show" of sorts will be given at the show. 

Visitors to the technology section can log on to GE's Technical Portal, which provides access to the company's electronic tools and services. Topics covered include engineering design, processing techniques, machine suppliers, secondary operations, and testing institutes. Each category contains five to 10 direct links; clicking the More button reveals links to specific processes, such as injection molding. In all, there are more than 800 URLs from which to choose. 

Another highlight is the newly launched second-generation order center, which will be featured in the distribution section. 

DuPont's Engineering Polymers group will feature a number of application-specific materials solutions at K. Automotive is the market receiving the most attention. DuPont has developed a system for manufacturing all-plastic auto coolant systems. Besides the obvious advantages of lighter weight and corrosion resistance, this electrically powered system does rely on engine power to operate. That, coupled with the design freedom offered by extrusion and injection molding, means a car could have a cooling system that resembles a freeform sculpture rather than the well-known rectangular blocks. Parts of the cooling system could be located in otherwise unused spaces in a car, including wheel wells or adjacent to bumpers. A similar freedom would apply to air-conditioning units. 

This electricity-generating heat transfer technology, called Caltrel, is not reserved for auto applications. It can be used in heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems in buildings and retail displays, among others. DuPont sources say the first Caltrel applications should appear in 2002 in HVAC and refrigeration products. 

The upcoming 42V electrical systems that will power electrically driven auto cooling systems are another DuPont focal point. By 2005 the average vehicle's electrical load will be about 2500W, near the maximum for the 12 and 14V systems in use since the 1950s. Auto systems like brakes, steering, engine valves, suspension control, water pumps, and others will begin to shift from belt-driven, mechanical, or hydraulic systems to electric actuation. 

DuPont sees a big opportunity for engineering polymers that can meet the electrical and temperature properties of the new electrical systems. At K DuPont will show a new translucent grade of Zytel nylon meant to replace PES in 42V circuit housings. Tests have shown that a blown fuse in a 42V circuit leaves a hole in the existing fuse housing that permits the deposition of carbon on adjacent fuses and circuits. The new nylon resists such detonations and costs at least 20 percent less than the materials it replaces. 

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This flame-proof industrial surface box was made of DuPont's long-established Zytel ST nylon. At K, the company will introduce new easier-processing grades of Zytel ST.

Again, with an eye on automotive electrical applications, DuPont is expanding its Zytel WRF (wear and friction) grades. These nylons, reinforced with friction modifiers including DuPont's Teflon, are meant for gears in brake and power steering systems, a job heretofore performed by fluid dynamics. These gears will operate at higher speeds and torque loads than the gears in wiper and window mechanisms, and may need enhanced temperature and chemical resistance to be in the engine area. 

DuPont also has a nylon for fuel systems that can help automakers meet the extremely stringent 2004 California new vehicle hydrocarbon emissions standards. 

Automotive is certainly not DuPont's sole focus. It will also show new high-temperature grades of PET for electrical applications, and acetals with flow and toughness made for thin, complex parts with tough mechanical specs. It also has new grades of black acetal that are laser transparent for welding, a technology the company will also bring to nylon. New easier processing grades of long-established Zytel ST (super tough) have been designed to help molders cut cycle times, reduce molding pressures, increase cavitation, and shrink section thickness. 

Finally, DuPont will show a prototype of a new website (www.plastics.dupont.com) that will be live by the end of this year. Besides transactions, the site will provide a variety of interactive material selection services. 

Speaking of online materials selection, Omnexus will make its first appearance at K. The company, which debuted at NPE 2000, plans to showcase its online resin procurement process involving multiple products and suppliers through a single connection. 

Molders can also see a demonstration that allows them to perform searches and equivalency comparisons on up to 4500 resins, as well as compare plastics processing machinery across a wide range of parameters. Free Internet access will be available at the company's Internet Cafe, which will feature nine terminals for all registered members of Omnexus and those visitors registering during the show. 

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This thin heat spreader for an Apple laptop video processor is molded of a thermally conductive polymer from Cool Polymers.

Ticona is another supplier that will have an eye on the automotive market at K. Besides under-the-hood and automotive exterior applications, Ticona will showcase the construction of, and peripheral systems for, a new generation of fuel cells that are suitable for home and car use. In almost all fuel system components, highly specialized polymers are replacing traditional materials such as steel. Modern fuel systems require high-performance polymer materials with properties that work under high temperatures and involve contact with aggressive fuels. Operating temperatures for fuel system components are increasing and now reach 149F; in the engine compartment temperatures climb to 248F. 

Environmental protection requirements must also be considered. The U.S. has planned a long-term target figure of .25g emission per day, with the fuel system to account for only .1g. Two materials from Ticona—Fortron and Hostaform—fit these requirements. Forton is suitable for continuous service temperatures up to 464F and has good chemical stability alongside flame retardancy and low creep. The material shows good resistance to high alcohol content in fuels that often corrode zinc and aluminum. The Hostaform grades are said to offer high strength, good hardness and rigidity, and good dimensional stability. Most importantly, the material demonstrates good resistance to all commonly used fuels including methanol-containing petrol and biodiesel made from rapeseed oil; it also allows a large number of metal components in the fuel system to be replaced by a single plastic part. 

Other applications on exhibit will include the plastic stud grid array (PSGA) technology from Siemens AG, wing components of the new Airbus planes, and applications for health and medical technology such as dosing pens for diabetics and asthma inhalers. 

Ticona will also unveil its plans for expansion, as the company plans to invest more than $100 million in production capacity increases at several plants. One project includes the construction of a new plant for ultrahigh-molecular-weight PE with a capacity of 30,000 metric tons per year. An expansion at the polyacetal production plant in Germany will increase capacity to 100,000 metric tons per year by 2003, and another plant expansion at the Shelby, NC facility will increase the output of LCP to 5300 metric tons annually by 2002. 

Automotive applications, fuel cells, and new energy supply systems will be the focus of material suppliers at K 2001.

Last year Ticona's owner, Celanese AG, invested about $30 million in eBusiness projects, with Ticona taking up more than two-thirds of this sum. Ventures in this arena that will be discussed at the show include eProcurement initiatives, the supply chain project, and the launch of the Buy Ticona DirectTM transaction platform. 

Also on the automotive path is Rhodia Engineering Plastics, which will present a number of applications using its Technyl-Star S and Tehnyl-Star SX materials in the automotive, sports and leisure, and household appliance markets. Applications in the automotive market include engine covers, air intake manifolds, and other interior and exterior components. Representing the sports and leisure and home appliance market will be fishing reels and washing machine doors. New product introductions to be made at the show include two new grades of Technyl-Star—Technyl A218 G1 V30 and A218 G2 V30—designed to give long-term resistance to glycol. Both grades offer higher heat resistance to accommodate projected increases in cooling system operating temperatures. In addition, each grade will be available in 25 and 30 percent glass-reinforced versions to meet European and North American OEM criteria for mechanical properties. Another new grade will also be introduced at show: Technyl-Star S 246 V35 is a new impact-modified grade that is well suited for power tool applications. 

At its stand Victrex will highlight the metallization of its PAEK polymer. The metallization provides a tailor-made material for demanding electronic applications such as interconnect devices. Victrex will also promote the use of PAEK-Coat for powder coating applications where it is said to provide cost-efficient corrosion protection and wear resistance, even in small-volume production runs. As a result of a 40 percent increase of the use of PAEK in the first quarter of 2001 over the same period in 2000, the company will announce plans for capacity expansion at its headquarters in Thornton Cleveleys, England. 

The Polymer Additives Div. of Great Lakes Chemical will showcase new developments in flame retardant and polymer stabilizer technologies. New products at the show include a family of nonhalogen flame retardants for PP, a non-DPO thermally stable flame retardant for PUR foam, and nonhalogen additives that are used in automotive applications. Also featured will be the latest UV stabilizers; these include an expanded range of benstriazoles and phenolic antioxidants with good extraction resistance. On the business side, the division will also discuss the new ERP capabilities of its recently launched website and plans to expand its e-business capabilities. 

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Materials for fuel cells will be among the focuses of Ticona's new resin offerings at K.

Cool Polymers will introduce its elastomer product line and its most recent thermally conductive plastics applications. The latter include a high-torque motor and microstepping driver, an optical connector, insulated temperature sensors, an electrical system insert molded resister, a body temperature sensor for medical applications, and thermally conductive plastic housings to protect data storage drives. In addition, a presentation by the company's product manager will be given at the show on the development, trends, and future of thermally conductive plastics. 

Grupo Repol, a Spanish materials supplier, has recently completed 30 months of research in the development of compounding procedures for recycled polyamide used in the automotive industry. The company will discuss and showcase the results of this study at K. 

The project is called Compare and includes four other West European companies and two research centers. Due to the project's success, Grupo Repol has developed a new range of recycled PA materials, anticipating the coming modification in the European directive on end-of life-vehicles. The project underwent four main phases. In the first phase, PA grades of techno-economic interest to the car industry were chosen. Next, emphasis was placed on optimizing compounding with the selection of final formulations and pellet manufacturing. Following that, the injection process was optimized in the production of technical under-the-hood prototypes. In the final phase, testing had to be finalized with the environmental and techno-economical analysis of the global process. 

 

 

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