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Ultramid SI, nicknamed “furniture Ultramid”, they are geared to the needs of the furniture sector. These plastics combine the technical properties that are typical of polyamides with a high-quality surface appearance.
Ultramid SI, nicknamed “furniture Ultramid”, they are geared to the needs of the furniture sector. These plastics combine the technical properties that are typical of polyamides with a high-quality surface appearance.
Photo: 123

Engineering plastics, for its high-performance and flexibility, has been used extensively for lightweight components in automotive, electronics & electrical, medical, aerospace, lighting and new energy industries, etc, which are traditionally dominated by metal. With vast market potentials, the world’s leading suppliers have come up with many new innovations for different applications.


Hotspot 1: smaller engine enhances development of high heat resistant materials


As a result of continuous engine downsizing, particularly in the compact car segment, temperatures under the hood are going up, putting extra demands on plastics components used in this area.


Last year, DSM was awarded the Executive Order (EO) for one of its Akulon Fuel Lock grades, FL40-HP. This award, granted by CARB, certifies that the material meets the low permeation of hydrocarbons requirements for small, off-road engine fuel tanks. This EO allows manufacturers and users of small engine fuel tanks to avoid the lengthy and expensive testing process needed to confirm this level of performance.


Akulon Fuel Lock has significantly improved fuel barrier properties and impact strength than conventional polyamide (PA) 6. Solutions created with the material are more cost effective and reliable than solutions in fluorinated HDPE, and barrier performance does not diminish over time.


LANXESS is launching two new high-tech heat stabilizing systems – the XTS1 and XTS2 (Xtreme Temperature Stabilization) – for the Durethan PA product family. Their key feature is that they boost the continuous service temperatures of these highperformance thermoplastics by 60˚C and more.


The first XTS1 material grade is the PA 6 Durethan BKV 30 XTS1. It can withstand long-term service temperatures of up to 200˚C. Potential applications for the material in the engine compartment include air tubes, inlet pipes and add-on body parts that are subject to high thermal stresses. The products in the XTS2 range can even withstand long-term service temperatures of up to 230˚C.


Hotspot 2: Consciousness of environmental protection promotes bio-based products and recycling


In recent years, the sustainable development of engineering plastics lies in bio-based materials and high performance recycling.


LANXESS and Genomatica have started running a production campaign of bio-based polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) in LANXESS’ world-scale production plant using 20 metric tons of bio-based BDO made with Genomatica’s commercially-proven process. This BDO fully complied with the demanding LANXESS specifications for petro-based BDO allowing a direct feed of 100% bio-based BDO into the continuous production process. The properties and the quality of the resulting bio-based PBT are fully equivalent to conventional petro-based PBT with regard to all tested parameters.


To the perception of many people, recycled plastics can only be used in low end applications. However, new technologies developed by material suppliers allow post-consumed plastics waste to be used in high performance applications.


SABIC’s ValoxiQ PBT resin, which incorporates up-cycled water bottles, is used for the brackets of the side air deflection system for all seven models in the 2012 Volvo VN platform of heavy trucks.


Ascend Performance Materials Inc introduced several new Vydyne grades designed specifically for automotive applications. One of them is Glass and mineral filled Vydyne R860 based on post-consumer recycled feedstock.


Hotspot 3: Design freedom accelerates substitution of thermosetting plastics


Substituting metal is an important market for engineering plastics. Apart from that, it is also increasingly being used as a replacement for thermosetting plastics.


DuPont has launched a new halogen-free, flame retardant nylon 66 with enhanced thermal aging. The new Zytel FR grade uses a patented combination of flame-retardant, nylon base polymer and stabilizer to improve melt stability, flow, surface appearance, and reduce mold deposit. The new grade, available in 25% glass-reinforced version, has a UL 94 V0 flammability rating down to 0.4-mm and a Comparative Tracking Index (CTI) rating of 600V+. Suitable applications include insulating elements and housings for circuit breakers, contactors, transformers, and motors.


Royal DSM is the first engineering plastics supplier to offer a full portfolio of materials that can replace thermosets in demanding molded-case circuit breakers (MCCBs) with open arc extinguishing chambers. DSM has solutions for all the separate housing components, as well as for the functional internal parts in the arc extinguishing chamber of the circuit breaker.


Hotspot 4: The trend of direct injection for high surface quality


It would be of great advantage to plastics processers if high surface quality, high glazing or functional surface can be achieved through injection or extrusion without further process. Not only the production process is more environmentally friendly, it also helps to reduce costs and increase the competitiveness of the product.


BASF presents four new versions from its PA portfolio that are geared to the needs of the furniture sector. All four new Ultramid SI grades (SI: surface improved) combine high surface quality with good mechanical and chemical properties, and in a special case even joined with flame retardants. One of the first serially produced items made of the new Ultramid SI series is the MOVYis3 office swivel chair, which BASF developed in collaboration with the furniture manufacturer Interstuhl.


Teijin Limited announced its development of a polycarbonate (PC) resin suitable for in-mold decoration, an efficient method of decorating plastic parts during the injection molding process. The new PC resin will allow manufacturers to enhance productivity while reducing product weight. Potential applications include casings of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks, as well as medical devices and automotive parts.


Hotspot 5: Innovations in lightweight composites


BASF is now expanding its activities in the field of engineering plastics to include a completely new approach called Ultracom. This is a package of three components: continuous fiber reinforced semi-finished products, adapted overmolding compounds and the complementing engineering support. The key innovations in this new approach are laminates based on woven fabrics and unidirectional (UD) tapes that are fully impregnated with Ultramid or Ultradur, the PA and PBT materials from BASF. At K 2013, BASF will already be able to offer first commercial Ultracom product packages.


Ticona, the engineering polymers business of Celanese Corporation, received a prestigious JEC Innovation Award for the first thermoplastic composite tailplane developed and put into production for a helicopter. It uses a composite prepreg made with Fortron polyphenylene sulfide (PPS).


The award goes to the new tailplane of theAgustaWestland AW169 helicopter primarily due to its energy-saving lightness: With a 15% weight reduction compared with predecessor models made from conventional composites, this innovative composite makes a considerable contribution to a fuel-saving construction and thus to greater profitability and lower emissions.


As the first of its kind, the 3m long tailplane has a single-piece torsion boxmade from thermoplastic composite.This core element comprises four preforms co-consolidated under pressure.Both the leading and trailing edges of the tailplane are made from reinforced thermoplastic composite laminates attached to thin, pressed ribs and individually exchangeable.


Hotspot 6: Fulfilling the requirements of medical and food contact materials


The wide scope of engineering plastics applications includes the medical and food packaging industries.


The latest glass fiber-reinforced product VICTREX PEEK 90GL30BLK EU meets the current requirements of both the American and the European regulatory authorities, including the EU Commission Regulation10/2011 (Plastics Implementation Measure, PIM) which will be fully implemented by end 2015. Equipment and components marketed in the EU must comply with this regulation regardless of their country of origin or manufacture.


Bayer MaterialScience will present at K 2013 a small mechanical injection pump made with PC that fits comfortably into one’s breast pocket. Patients can thus administer their own medicines with high dosing accuracy. This gives them both mobility and security. Although the entirely mechanically operated injection pump has not yet been granted regulatory approval, it is a good example of the possibilities offered by mobile medication systems.


Hotspot 7: Hot prospects in printed electronics market


Smart electronics technologies have brought new opportunities for the plastics industry. High performance materials and printed electronics polymers in return have enhanced the design and performance of electronics products.


DuPont Zytel HTN is a high performance PA resin that can be used to make thinner, lighter and more durable handheld device housings while making them longer-lasting and easier to produce. From a processing perspective, Zytel HTN grades can also save energy, cost and time thanks to its excellent flow and dimensional stability.


Ticona supplied a specialized liquid crystal polymer (LCP), Vectra E840i LDS, used in an innovative OLED light element that received the MID-Industry Award 2013.The manufacture of 3D circuits in MID technology requires the use of metallized high performance polymers. This is one of the most important application areas for Vectra LCP from Ticona. The Vectra LCP LDS grades enable the construction of complex components with extremely fine conductor structures.


Hotspot 8: New energy and electric vehicle driving the demand of engineering plastics


In the cities of the future, balanced energy management will mean making even more efficient use of energy from renewable sources. One option would be to integrate solar modules directly into roofs and walls.


DuPont Performance Polymers has tailored its portfolio of thermoplastic materials and design knowledge to the needs of the photovoltaic (PV) industry. This includes the introduction of two specific grades of DuPont Rynite PET for PV applications.


The hydrolysis-resistant PBT Ultradur HR from BASF not only stands out in a positive way in customary static tests for damp-hot environments, but also passes the demanding climatic cycling tests of USCAR standard class 5. It could be shown that Ultradur HR is superior to competitor products. BASF now offers Ultradur HR with integrated flame retardance and laser transparency respectively. The material is thus suitable also for applications in electric vehicles.


The new applications of engineering plastics is not only limited to the above hotspots. It is also having a huge impact in many niche markets.     
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