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One of the  exhibits that catches your eye when you walk into the North/South Hall at NPE2012 (Orlando, FL; April 1-5) is a fish tank with floating PVC fisherman's boots.

April 2, 2012

2 Min Read
NPE2012: Applications expand for 3M's glass bubbles

One of the  exhibits that catches your eye when you walk into the North/South Hall at NPE2012 (Orlando, FL; April 1-5) is a fish tank with floating PVC fisherman's boots.

It's a demonstration in the 3M booth (35000) by the Kohshin Rubber Co. (Miyagi, Japan) of newly developed

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Representatives of Kohshin Rubber point to the floating boot.

boots that float because the PVC is loaded with glass bubbles. "The main purpose of the lightweighting is to make it is easier for workers to get through the day," said Eiji Tashima, a member of the planning section at Kohsin Rubber. He spoke to Plastics Today through an interpreter. 

PVC, with a specific gravity of 1.2, is heavier than water. A loading of 15% glass bubbles makes the material light enough to float.  The new boots are 20% more expensive than the standard boots.

At NPE2012, 3M introduced Glass Bubbles iM16K,  a high-strength injection molding grade for polypropylene and polyamide systems. With a density of just 0.46 g/cc, resin systems optimized with iM16K can reduce weight by 15% or more in polypropylene-filled systems, and 18% or more in polyamide glass fiber systems, while maintaining physical properties, according to 3M.

Lou Dodyk, advanced development engineer at Magna, said that major domestic auto producers are interested in developing SMC parts in which the new glass filler replaces mineral filler.  A Honda part using an existing glass bubble technology was on display at the 3M booth. Weight for the part was cut from 14.4 to 10 pounds.

In another development, REHAU, a German extruder, has been developing a low-density PPSU material called "RAU-Flight," made with 3M glass bubbles for use in a variety of interior aircraft cabin components. According to Bernd Kupferer, business unit manager, Industrial Solutions at REHAU, the new material could contribute to significant fuel savings for aircraft operators. The material is bow being qualified by Airbus.

"We have determined that a single handrail system for an Airbus A320, made with these new RAU-Flight materials, would reduce weight by more than 5 kg per aircraft, resulting in a savings of about 1000 liters of fuel per year," says Kupferer. "If you extend this to a fleet of 150 aircraft, over a 15-year operating life, the total fuel savings would be about 2.25 million liters of jet fuel. That not only saves money for the airline, but is also a significant reduction in carbon emissions."

Samples of iM16K glass bubbles will be available for U.S. customers to purchase online at NPE 2012 through Shop3M.com.

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