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Keywords of this article:  Engineering Plastic 
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Prospective engine cover application for new Chemlon compounds.
Prospective engine cover application for new Chemlon compounds.

Polyamide (PA), often referred to as nylon, offers strong mechanical properties and can be either hard and tough or soft and flexible. For use as an engineering plastics, it is often compounded with fillers and fibers to achieve specific properties. The demand for polyamide continues to rise in recent years as material performances leap.

Market activities in plenty

The polyamide market is very active in recent years as acquisitions, capacity expansion and new business units come up every once in a while.

In May, US-based Celanese Corporation completed the acquisition of the nylon compounding division of Nilit in Israel.

Nylon is increasing in applications and end uses in growth industries where Celanese is already focusing significant product, solution and customer development activities,” said Scott Richardson, Senior Vice President of the Celanese engineered materials business.

Shay Kastoriano, General Manager of the Chinese subsidiary, Nilit (Suzhou) Engineering Plastics Technologies Co. Ltd, commented on the acquisition, “We believe that Celanese would be the best partner for Nilit Plastics going forward, adding resources and bringing more value to customers.”

Teknor Apex Company, another US materials supplier, has recently restructured its Nylon Division to become the Engineering Thermoplastics (ETP) Division, after acquiring Plastic-Technologie-Service (PTS), a custom compounder in Germany.

By combining unique technologies developed by PTS with those that we have long employed for nylon and other compounds, Teknor Apex is creating a global source of high-performance materials for automotive, electrical, military, and other demanding markets, commented Michael A. Roberts, Vice President in charge of the ETP Division.

For automotive

Teknor Apex is introducing two new glass fiber reinforced polyamide (PA) compounds with superior flame retardants and thermal stability for injection molded under-hood automotive components such as engine covers.

Chemlon 904-13 GVNH and 204-13 GVNH are glass-filled nylon compounds with low halogen content that meet the UL-94 V-0 standard by passing the vertical burn test at a thickness of 0.8mm.

Conventional halogenated compounds achieve this degree of flame retardancy only with high levels of flame retardant and synergistic filler that make processing difficult, yield poor surfaces, and increase product density.

In contrast, Teknor Apex said the new Chemlon compounds yield a smooth surface, are 15% less dense than conventional counterparts, and are readily processed for parts with long flow paths or thin walls.

Equally valuable for under-hood applications is the thermal stability of the new compounds, according to Jeff Schmidt, Automotive Industry Manager for ETP Division of Teknor Apex.

Chemlon 904-13 GVNH is an especially high-temperature material, with a heat deflection temperature of 245°C and a high degree of property retention at elevated temperatures,” noted Schmidt. “In fact, this compound provides a continuous use temperature that is much higher than specification.”

The company is targeting high-end applications, such as injection molded under-the-hood automotive components like engine covers.

For the automotive sector, RadiciGroup Performance Plastics developed a new blow molding polyamide grade that can withstand continuous exposure to air temperatures up to 230°C.
Marco Barbolini (left) and Erico Spini, Marketing and Application Development Director Europe of RadiciGroup Plastics.
The new copolymer with a semi-aromatic component belongs to its RADILON product family, which, in combination with other additives used to retard the thermal oxidation process, endows the material with very high heat resistance properties. Furthermore, the formulation ensures high melt strength and good blow moldability.

Röchling Automotive is using the new compound to develop turbo air pipes to be used by a major car manufacturer. Tests done by its laboratories have shown numerous advantages: weight reduction of 15%, lower energy consumption of 5-7%, less expensive molds and enhanced impact resistance compared to Polyphenylene sulfide (PPS).

Marco Barbolini, Intake Systems Project Manager of Röchling Automotive, is satisfied with the partnership. “It is a new material that fills a gap in the market, offering and combines high performance characteristics with high heat resistance, while maintaining the good processability that is typical of polyamides.”

For electronics & electrical

Lanxess is strengthening its production chain particularly for PA and caprolactam, a precursor for high performance plastics, with an investment of roughly €25 million at its Antwerp, Belgium complex.

Given the trend toward lightweight construction in the automotive industry, for example, this is a major future market. Therefore we are continuously strengthening the competitiveness of this site,” said Matthias Zachert, Chairman of the Board of Management at Lanxess.

At the E&E Applications conference held by SKZ, Lanxess introduced a highly reinforced PA grade, the halogen-free, flame-retardant Durethan BKV 45 FN04.

This free-flowing PA 6 with 45%-by-weight glass fiber content passes UL 94 V testing, achieving the best classification of V-0 (0.4mm). The structural material is unusually stiff and strong. Its tensile modulus is 16 gigapascals (freshly molded). Further advantages include its high tracking and thermal aging resistance.

The material is predestined for use in structural components, for replacing thermosets and die cast metals, and for large connectors,” explained Alexander Radeck, Applications Development Expert in the High Performance Materials (HPM) business unit.
Mini circuit breakers are one of the targeted applications for Lanxess’ high performance PA.
Lanxess also presented Durethan BKV 60 EF and XF, highly reinforced PA 6 grades without flame retardant, suitable for highly mechanically stressed components. Despite their high glass fiber content of 60% by weight, they are just as free-flowing as standard polyamides with a significantly lower filler content.

We further are unveiling a compound reinforced with a 60% mix of short glass fibers and glass microbeads, intended for applications in which warpage is a critical factor,” Radeck added.

Another highlight was the new line of Durethan TC (thermally conductive) polyamides for thermal management. “One highlight among these products is the new PA 6, Durethan TP 723-620. This combines strong light reflection and thermal conductivity with very good flame retardance based on a halogen-free, flame-retardant package,” explained Radeck.

Potential applications include heat-dissipating components, such as heat sinks and LED modules.

In the field of electronics applications, a breakthrough was announced by DSM – its ForTii Ace JTX8 high temperature compound has become the only polyamide grade in the world to have secured, in all product designs, the JEDEC MSL 1 (moisture sensitivity level 1) rating.
DSM develops breakthrough in automotive electronics systems with ForTii Ace JTX8.
It is specifically developed for electronic connectors in automotive applications that will not blister during high-temperature soldering processes.

The automotive industry is increasingly specifying a JEDEC MSL 1 rating in their requirements for reflow connectors,” commented Rui Zhang, Marketing Manager, Connected Car, at DSM. “ForTii Ace JTX8, which meets these requirements whatever the thickness of the design, solves a long-standing dilemma in the industry.”

Blistering is the result of moisture rapidly turning into steam in a part and being unable to escape when the part is exposed to a high temperature. It is a problem often associated with normal high temperature polyamides, the most commonly used polymers for connectors suitable for reflow assembly.

If not detected, blisters on connectors often causes assembly issues, and compromises the mechanical performance of the components.

There are several other types of thermoplastics on the market that comply with JEDEC MSL 1, but each has its limitations, Zhang explained.

With current solutions in the market, a connector designer always needs to make a compromise to carefully design around the brittleness of the material, the weak weld lines, or the low peak temperature resistance. This often means thick and bulky designs to cope with the low mechanics, or carefully specified the soldering conditions to reach a just acceptable end product performance.”

On top of the JEDEC MSL1 performance, DSM said ForTii Ace JTX8 can be used for automotive electronics applications in environments of up to 200°C. Traditional solutions for these sorts of temperatures are typically materials stabilized with an iodide salt; but these additives can create corrosion issues on metal contacts.

Removing the iodide-based stabilizer is possible, but the thermal stability of the compound is dramatically reduced, compromising its ability to withstand the thermal load in the application.

ForTii Ace JTX8 can match the thermal stability of a standard copper iodide stabilized polyphthalamide (PPA) grade without using halogen-based stabilization system. At the same time, it also offers much better chemical resistance than most PPAs in the market, according to DSM.

For packaging

BASF is the latest company to expand its engineering plastics capacity, which recently added 70,000 tons per year at maximum for Ultramid polyamide and Ultradur polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) at its Schwarzheide, Germany site.
Comparison of softness properties of various Ultramid products.
With the expansion, the Schwarzheide site becomes the biggest PA and PBT compounding capacity within BASF globally. Its global compounding capacity for PA and PBT will thus top 700,000 tons per year.

The bigger plant enables us to accompany our customers’ growth in the long run, at the highest technical level and with the best plastics,” said Jürgen Becky, Head of BASF’s business unit Performance Materials Europe since May 1.

Ultramid Flex F is one of the company’s latest offerings. It is an entirely new and partly bio-based copolyamide, which, thanks to its softness and transparency even at low temperatures and low humidity, is ideally suited for soft packaging.

A quarter of the raw material used for the monomer in Ultramid Flex F is sourced from regionally-grown rapeseed oil.

Films made of Ultramid Flex F are even soft immediately after processing and without conditioning. This offers huge advantages for film processing at low temperatures and low humidity, according to BASF. Tear and puncture resistance are also increased in an even softer film.

With a CO2 and O2 permeability 15 times higher than in conventional PA 6, the new material is can be used for production cheese ripening bags.

Thanks to its high flexibility and softness, the new Ultramid can also be used to produce soft vacuum and shrink bags. The product also allows for conventional stretching ratios in deep-drawing processes.

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