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Keywords of this article:  automotive 
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The PA Foam features an outstanding rigidity or noise reducing quality depending on the shape of the beads.
The PA Foam features an outstanding rigidity or noise reducing quality depending on the shape of the beads.

Electromobility and autonomous driving are posing new challenges to the materials used in vehicles, yet at the same time opening up new opportunities.  Thanks to their outstanding properties polyamides (PAs) have been a go-to material for components in challenging environment. These engineering thermoplastics are also gaining popularity and in great demand for applications in the automotive industry.

New polyamide foam for weight and noise reducing

In the automotive industry, the tightening of CO2 emission and noise legislations has been significantly pushing the demand for new and innovative materials. Asahi Kasei’s newly developed polyamide foam offers unique possibilities for lightweight and noise reducing applications.

Asahi Kasei is one of the few fully integrated polyamide manufacturers worldwide, and is able to produce polyamide 6.6 completely from monomer to compound. Based on this expertise, the company is currently developing the PA Foam, a foam material based on polyamide. Samples will be displayed at the K 2019 to be held in October.

The PA Foam features the typical heat, chemical and oil resistant properties of polyamide, mixed with an outstanding rigidity or noise reducing quality depending on the shape of the beads.

PA Foam consisting of round-shaped beads features a strong rigidity, making it a promising alternative material for aluminum and metal in structural applications, as well as for use for insulators, ducts, spacers, or other lightweight parts of the battery case of electric vehicles.

PA Foam with a C- or macaroni-shape provides noise insulation in addition to the typical polyamide properties. Possible applications can be found everywhere around the car, especially in the engine compartment. Used for engine covers, it does not only contribute to lightweight, but also significantly reduces the radiating engine noise.

As the PA Foam can also reduce noise coming from the outside, possible applications can be found in the roof and bonnet as well as in the seat and floor structure.

Foam beads made of polyamide can be processed in a steam molding process on standard polystyrene molding equipment. Furthermore, a significant reduction of resin for the production process can be achieved, contributing to an overall cost reduction.

Steering column switch housing made from polyamide 6

Polyamide 6 and 66 are very similar in terms of their characteristics. Polyamide 66 can therefore be replaced by polyamide 6 in many applications. One example of this is a steering column switch housing used in various models of the Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Ford Eco Plus.
Replacing polyamide 66 with polyamide 6 Durethan BKV30H3.0 in a steering column switch housing.
The component is produced by Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG. Based in Lüdenscheid, Germany, this family-owned company is one of the world's leading system suppliers and developers of control elements, sensors and control units. It initially used a glass-fiber-reinforced polyamide 66 for the housing, and has recently switched over to Durethan BKV30H3.0, a polyamide 6 compound from LANXESS featuring 30% by weight glass-fiber reinforcement.

According to the HPM business unit of LANXESS, the change of material took place directly in the tool originally developed for polyamide 66. No changes were necessary.

The housing is injection molded from foamed polyamide 6. This foaming process has several advantages. In comparison with solid components, it saves material and weight  with reasonable compromises in terms of mechanical characteristics. The use of foam injection molding with the material results in a weight reduction of close to 10%.

In addition, foaming leads to a considerable reduction in warpage and shrinkage in particular. This is good for the dimensional accuracy of the component, which accommodates numerous steering wheel functions such as switches for the turn signals and the windshield wipers, and thus features a highly complex geometry.

A further benefit of the foaming process is the discernibly lower cavity pressures. The component can therefore be produced on smaller injection molding machines with lower clamping forces. Compared with solid molded parts, this also leads to shorter cycle times, which ultimately paves the way for cost advantages.

Special polyamide grades enhance safety for electromobility

Special polyamide grades from BASF can be used as halogen-free, flame-retardant materials to give high-voltage components both inside and outside of vehicles the exact properties required.

These engineering plastics meet the highest requirements in flame retardance, color stability, mechanics, and electric insulation. At the same time, the intrinsic insulating properties add to the safety.

The various Ultramid EQ grades (EQ: electronic quality) of BASF are said to be extremely pure and contain almost no electrically active or corrosive substances, such as halides. On top, this material also has excellent heat aging resistance properties.

Today’s electronic drive systems are still primarily part of the metals industry. Until now, manufacturers of electronic motors and power electronic components have been using housing made of steel or die-cast aluminum.

As many of the components are now actively cooled, meaning that heat no longer needs to be dissipated via the housing, plastic solutions are now a possibility for a lightweight construction, for example flame-retardant Ultramid grades A3U42G6 and B3U50G6.

Housings that contain high-voltage electric components must be electrically shielded to prevent compromising the surrounding area. Metal coatings on the plastic housing parts are one of the possible solutions that BASF is pursuing. Coating in this way can provide good shielding of the magnetic field. In addition, engineering plastics offer the advantage of integrating additional functions into the component.

In prototype pre-series projects with customers, it has already been able to show that plastic housings manufactured using this process are lighter and more economical than comparable die-cast aluminum housings. 

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