Engineeringfuture plastics

Engineering the future of plastics

5:12 AM, 17th January 2018
Engineering the future of plastics
Bert Havenith, Strategy & Intelligence Manager, DSM Engineering Plastics.

In an interview, Bert Havenith, Strategy & Intelligence Manager, DSM Engineering Plastics with Chemical Today magazine discusses how engineering plastics is making its way into the future of engineering in various industries.

By Shivani Mody 

Global trends and development in engineering plastics.

Some of the prominent trends in the area of engineering plastics include the increased use of high-performance plastics such as PA46 (Nylon 46), PPA (polyphthalamides), PPS (polyphenylene sulphide), LCP (liquid crystal polymers) and PEEK (polyetheretherketone). The other notable trend is increased use of speciality grades in all EPs and HPMs; like long-term-heat-stable grades, low-friction grades, thermoconductive grades, laser-direct-structuring grades, high barrier grades, highly reinforced grades.

Growth potential for engineering plastics.

There is a tremendous growth potential for engineering plastics in Asia Pacific and India due to multiple factors such as high GDP and industrial production growth. These regions still have relatively low usage percentage in cars giving a huge growth opportunity.

Engineering plastics - material of the future

Engineering plastics are becoming good replacements for traditional engineering materials such as metals or thermosets and fibre glass in various industries such electrical & electronics, automotive, packaging etc among others. The reason for this shift is mainly due to the quest for, light weighting in automotive, miniaturization and/or innovation in electronics and finally, lower system costs (plastics enable function integration within components).

Also, different industries have different demands. Specific demands centre around the global availability of materials, global quality control and global service elements such as CAE design support.

Lightweight trends in engineering plastics.

Light-weighting with engineering plastics and high-performance plastics is already done for decades in automotive, especially in and around the powertrain and in the interior; the main known examples here are air inlet manifolds, air ducts, radiator endcaps, oil pans, airbag containers, pedal and pedal boxes etc. Currently, metal-to-plastic conversion activities centre around parts with even more demanding load requirements such as engine mounts, EPS steering housings and structural parts in the body/chassis area.

Engineering plastics requirement in developed and emerging markets.

Engineering plastics usage in Japanese and Chinese and North-American cars is percentage wise lower than in European cars, which is also partly caused by the fact that tailgate emission legislation is still the most stringent in Europe (something which implies that here in Europe more technology is incorporated to cope with that).

Future applications of engineering plastics.

One of the areas for applications of engineering plastics can be in the automotive industry. The themes related to the auto industry can be around the lower tailgate emissions and lower fuel consumption. Here engineering plastics solutions can be long-term-heat stable grades (< 230 C, 5000 hrs in turbo parts and AIM/CAC). The other can be low friction grades for chain tensioners in timing systems and high stiffness grades for metal-to-plastic conversion.

The other themes in the auto industry can be for the connected cars and electrical cars (BEV, PHEV). In this case the engineering plastics solutions can be blister-free reflow solderable and LDS grades for SMT connectors. Moreover, low halogen-containing e-friendly grades thermoconductive and/or EMI shielding grades (ECUs) and hydrolysis resistant grades (HV battery cooling) can also be the other engineering plastics solutions.

Considering the electronics industry some of the themes can be around thinnovation and wearables. For this, the engineering plastics solutions can be high flowability grades for connectors, structural parts, frames and soft touch grades for wearable straps.

Company’s engineering plastics business in Asia Pacific and India markets.

Over 25 percent of DSM’s engineering plastics turnover is generated in Asia. We have a strong position especially in electronics. We have production units in Greater China, Japan and India. Apart from this, we have our marketing & sales presence in most Asian countries.

R&D focus.

Our team of researchers constantly strive to meet the demands of the customers and have come up with various grades of engineering plastics which are more long term temperature resistant, more chemical resistant, has less friction, has high structural performance, more sustainable etc.

Some of the examples are:

Stanyl Diablo: long-term-heat stable grades

Stanyl HGR2: low friction grades (chain tensioners in timing systems)

ForTii Ace: high stiffness grades (for metal-to-plastic conversion)

ForTii JDX8: blisterfree reflow solderable

ForTii LDS: LDS grades (SMT connectors)

Stanyl TC: hermoconductive and/or EMI shielding grades (ECUs)

Akulon HR: hydrolysis resistant grades (HV battery cooling)

Xytron: dimensional stable, highly chemical resistant grades

Stanyl, ForTii: high flowability grades (connectors, structural parts, frames)

Arnitel XG: grades for wearables

Limitations of engineering plastics.

One of the limitations are that the advanced composites are based on carbon fiber reinforcement which are still too expensive for mass produced Light Vehicles (this might change for Battery Electrical Cars).

Impact of crude oil pricing on engineering plastics business.

The crude oil prices have been volatile in recent times and mostly been on the rising trend. This increasing crude oil prices imply increased raw material costs, which have to be passed on towards customers downstream. Also this would in turn provide more opportunities for light weighting solutions based on engineering plastics, as more consumers are requesting for light weight cars in order to offset higher gasoline prices.

Challenges faced by engineering plastics manufacturers.

Among all the challenges, the most dominant one is related to new solutions development and innovation. Increasing amount of diversified grades in portfolio implies a lot of additional costs in the area of quality control, regulatory affairs, OEM spec generation, UL listings to name a few.

© Chemical Today Magazine

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