BASF guilty of chemical innovation

  • 23-Sep-2010 02:13 EDT

With Ultramid Endure, BASF now has a highly heat-stabilized and cost-competitive specialty polyamide that satisfies the demanding temperature requirements to allow for the replacement of metal components in the charge-air stage such as resonator, intercooler end caps, charge-air lines, throttle valves, and intake manifold. Shown at right are (top) the surface of a conventional material destroyed by oxygen at high temperature and (bottom) the surface of a part made of Ultramid Endure.

As a large global maker and integrator of chemicals, BASF has its fingerprints on a great variety of plastics products covering diverse industry segments. Among the end products that the company cannot keep its hands off is the automobile.

BASF will submit self-incriminating evidence to that effect at one of the materials industry’s most important shows, K 2010, to be held in Düsseldorf Oct. 27 through Nov. 3. Exhibit A is Ultramid Endure, a new polyamide (PA) special grade that withstands temperatures up to 220ºC (428ºF), including spikes up to 240ºC (464ºF). The company says the improvement in thermal properties—its Ultramid A3WG7 has a long-term heat resistance of only 170ºC (338ºF)—offers a solution for lightweighting that previously was unattainable by plastics.

Ultramid 13WG6 is part of the Ultramid W2 line (PA 66/6).

In addition, the processibility of Ultramid Endure is improved compared to standard PA 66-grade. Together, the enhanced properties and reduced processing costs make the product suitable for underhood applications, according to BASF. Noted Dr. Martin Baumert, Team Leader, Product Development, Automotive Engineering Plastics, Europe: “High-performance plastics are frequently ruled out [for underhood use] because of the system costs. On the other hand, the performance capability of the remaining plastics no longer satisfies today’s requirements. But with Ultramid Endure,” he said, “researchers at BASF have now succeeded in finding a way out of that dead end.”

The improvement in resistance to heat aging is achieved through innovative stabilization technology developed by BASF, Baumert said at a special media event previewing the K 2010 show. Formation of a protective surface layer even at temperatures up to 220ºC provides continuous protection against attack by oxygen.

“The effect of this technology can be seen especially well on aged surfaces,” said Baumert. With conventional PA 66, oxygen tends to erode channels in the surface after 1000 h at 220ºC, allowing ever more oxygen to reach and attack ever deeper layers. With Ultramid Endure, the surface is sealed off very quickly by the new stabilization and sealing process, so that the material remains protected—except for a thin layer of carbon black on the surface—even after four months at 220ºC.

The product also performs “exceptionally well” in terms of toughness and strength, Baumert said.

He identified intercoolers of diesel turbocharged engines as an area of particularly great potential for Ultramid Endure. Another is intake manifolds with integrated water-cooled intercoolers.

In a different presentation at the BASF event, Dr. Anka Bernnat, Product Development, Automotive Engineering Plastics, Europe, described the benefits of Ultramid B3WG6 High Speed. She identified Intake manifolds, engine covers, and pedals as good applications for this fast-flowing grade.

“The primary characteristic of this new grade is its flowability,” she said. “In spiral flow tests, the new Ultramid B High Speed flows at least 50% farther than its conventional predecessor. With a spiral flow thickness of 2.5 mm, flow-path lengths of up to one meter are possible.

“The benefits associated with good flowability can basically be exploited in two different situations. Sophisticated structures and thin walls—often encountered in electronic components because of increasing miniaturization—can be filled more easily and reliably. The reject rate drops, especially in the case of complex geometries. The considerably reduced injection pressure means that molds are subject to less wear. This translates into increased uptime and reduced maintenance costs. On the other hand, wall thicknesses can be reduced, which means lower component weight.”

Ultramid B3WG6 High Speed will be available in sample quantities after K show 2010.

Available in sample quantities as of this month (September) in Europe are four new glass-fiber-reinforced materials to complement the unreinforced grade Ultramid S3K Balance in the Ultramid Balance line. They are designated Ultramid S3EG6 Balance (glass fiber content of 30%), Ultramid S3WG6 Balance (30%), Ultramid S3WG7 Balance (35%), and Ultramid A3HG6 (30%) Balance. Ultramid S has a lower density and reduced moisture uptake vs. conventional polyamide 6 and 66.

Dr. Matthias Scheibitz, Product Development, Automotive Engineering Plastics, Europe, said that what makes the new grades “worthy competitors” to other long-chain, high-performance polyamides such as PA 612 or PA 12 are its resistance to hot water and steam and its resistance to stress cracking when exposed to aggressive chemicals.

He identified as primary applications overmolding of metal and electronic components.

“They are also of interest for housings and transmission components where dimensional stability is a major factor,” Scheibitz said. “Connectors, tubing, and reservoirs in coolant circuits that must satisfy demanding requirements for hydrolysis resistance represent additional applications. The material has already demonstrated its performance capability in wheel speed sensors that are exposed to water spray and that can be attacked by road salt.”

In addition to these and other new products, BASF will highlight existing materials and existing applications of them at the K 2010 show.

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