Many of the key issues currently affecting the passenger-car industry are impacting the commercial-vehicle industry as well. Likewise, a good many of the technologies suppliers come up with for one industry can also benefit the other. That is indeed the case with BASF and some of its material solutions that were on display at September’s IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hannover, Germany.
“We are more and more discovering the truck industry as an interesting cooperation…for the topic of plastics because light weight is one of the main issues, of course,” said Dr. Sabine Philipp, BASF Communications, Plastics.
An example of a new material that is targeted for passenger cars but is suited just as well for commercial vehicles is its Ultramid TOP 3000, described as an impact-modified, mineral-filled, partially aromatic polyamide (PA). Not yet in series production, the material has been used to make a passenger-car fender prototype, manufactured by Plastal of Norway for a Volvo S40. Ultramid TOP 3000 can be coated online and is said to offer advantages for dimensional stability compared to conventional plastics such as polymer blends based on polyphenyl ether (PPE)/PA 66.
“We think the material’s state-of-the-art at the moment,” said Philipp, pointing to the fender prototype on display at BASF’s IAA 2008 booth. “This part is not coated offline by some specific offline coating machine; it has been included into the whole production process of the body-in-white, so it was coated as if it was a metal part. That means this plastic part…has to endure, without damage, all the high oven temperatures that the body-in-white is also enduring. So that might be interesting for the trucking industry as well.”
Though plastics that can be coated online are already on the market, each has some limitations that prevent them from replacing exterior metal parts on a wider scale, according to Jörg Schnorr, BASF Application Development Automotive, Interior/Exterior. “The outstanding property of the new plastic is its considerably lower coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), which ensures dimensional stability even at elevated service temperatures,” he said in a previous presentation. The material can be used in coating and drying processes at temperatures above 200°C (392°F).
The high stiffness of Ultramid TOP 3000 is retained even when it is moist, claims BASF, and the material absorbs water more slowly and also releases it more slowly. “The dimensional changes associated with this are likewise delayed so that it is less sensitive to climate fluctuations,” Schnorr said.
“The latest findings in nanotechnology have also been incorporated into the development work. This technology ensures a high flowability and thus allows easy processing by means of injection molding,” he said, adding that Ultramid TOP 3000 has been successfully coated in Class-A quality in various coating lines under different conditions and coating concepts.
BASF is in discussions with “many” passenger-car OEMs, according to Philipp, but also with some heavy-truck producers regarding the serial application of the material.
Another relevant technology for passenger cars and commercial vehicles alike is a type of polyoxymethylene (POM) that can be processed using extrusion blow molding. Called Ultraform E3120 BM, the material can be used for brake-fluid, hydraulic-oil, or AdBlue containers. Claimed benefits of the material include better barrier properties against gases such as oxygen, hydrogen, and CO2 compared to polyethylene (PE) containers, as well as resistance to many types of media such as alcohol, oil, and hydrocarbons.
The translucent material’s optimized crystallization behavior offers a wide processing window, according to BASF, so the blow-molding process can be cost-efficiently automated. The high stretchability of the plastic melt enables applications with thin-walled sections. Ultraform E3120 BM is available in commercial quantities.
An Ultraform family member, S1320 0021 POM, capitalizes on the growing interest in biodiesel. “The whole plastics industry is quite busy in [the area of] engines,” said Philipp.
Storage tests have shown that compared with competitive materials, Ultraform S1320 0021 is significantly more stable in biodiesel, she said. The material is already being used for components in fuel-supply modules.