Carbodeon Granted U.S. Patent for Nanodiamond-Containing Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. December 2015


Finland’s Carbodeon has been granted a U.S. patent for its technology which enables detonation-synthesized diamond particles –nanodiamonds (ND)—to be combined with polymers for use in fields such as consumer electronics, LED lighting, automotive and machine tools. The earth’s hardest natural mineral is also one of the most thermally conductive materials known, so when NDs are mixed in with thermoplastics in controlled amounts, they can enable plastics to conduct heat at pre-determined rates, and/or to be highly wear-resistant.


As we reported last year, the company is selling its ultra-dispersed” uDiamond ND fillers via U.S. representative SiliconSense of Nashua, N.H. Available in powder or liquid dispersions, the ND is reportedly fully dispersed into its primary particles without agglomeration. As such, the compounder and end-user can benefit from the entire available ND surface area, resulting in better performance with less material and cost.


ND-impregnated polymers can deliver heat-conducting benefits for products such as LED lighting, mobile devices including cellphones and Internet-of-Things (loT) enabled devices of any type. The hard wearing properties also make them ideally suited for use in the automotive and aerospace sectors to enable longer product life in hard-wear environments.


Carbodeon’s U.S. patent #9085723 is on the company’s developed nanodiamond containing thermoplastic thermally-conductive composites. The patent was filed after the company’s own developments during 2012-2013 whereby they discovered that the thermal conductivity of thermoplastics can be significantly enhanced by adding nanodiamonds, usually is relatively small quantities (e.g., 0.1%). Since filling the patent, Carbodeon has continued their own research as well as developing the range of commercial applications of the technology.


Said company CTO Vesa Myllmaki, “The granting of this patent represents a key part of our nanodiamond composite material portfolio. The combined coverage of our filed and granted patents will secure our position and that of our customers in several nanodiamond applications including polymers for thermal management applications, wear- and corrosion-resistant nanodiamond metal finishing, and wear-resistant/low-friction nanodiamond fluroropolymer coatings.”


A recently-released report, “Thermally Conductive Plastics Market by Raw Material, by End-Use Industry—Global Trends and Forecast to 2020”, by India’s market research firm Markets and Markets, projects a 14.3% annual growth of thermally conductive plastics over the 2015-2020 period.  The report notes that thermally conductive plastics are used in a broad range of industries including electrical & electronics, automotive, industrial, healthcare, and aerospace. In 2015, the electrical & electronics segment accounted for the largest market share among all the end-use industries in terms of volume, followed by automotive, industrial, and healthcare. Among all the end-use industries, healthcare is estimated to grow at the highest annual rate.


Another interesting tidbit from this study is that rising demand from North America is the major driver for thermally conductive plastics. In 2015, North America is estimated to account for the largest market share in terms of volume, and is estimated to remain the market leader in the next five years. The use of shale gas as raw material for producing polymers has lowered the price of thermally conductive plastics and is boosting demand in this region. Within the last two years, the U.S. led the demand for thermally conductive plastics due to increased demand of LED lighting. Markets in emerging economies, such as Mexico, China, and India are projected to grow very rapidly.


Key companies profiled by this study are: BASF, Covestro, Saint Gobain, Toray Industries, DSM, Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., RTP Company, Celanese Corp., Polyone Corp., Kaneka Corp., and Mistubishi Engineering-Plastics.







PE Outlook for 2016 Favors Processors

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 15. December 2015

I have the opportunity of sharing an outlook on how the PE market is likely to shape up for 2016 thanks largely to Mike Burns, v.p. of client services for PE at Resin Technology, Inc. (RTi), Fort Worth, Texas. Mike, for one, projects that this will be the first time in years that processors will participate in a resin market where they have the advantage. “Processors should expect low resin cost (relative to the five-year average), ample inventory, and an aggressive buyers’ market.


Let me say that our monthly resin pricing analysis column has for some years now benefited from the views and outlooks shared with us by key resin purchasing consultants at RTi for four commodity thermoplastics--PE, PP, PS, and PVC, and quarterly updates on the four commodity engineering resins—ABS, PC, nylons 6 and 66. That also applies to the expertise and reporting shared by CEO Michael Greenberg of Chicago-based The Plastics Exchange, with an emphasis on the spot polyolefins markets. More recently, I have started to include information shared with us by Houston-based PetroChemWire, which we are looking forward to continuing. Also, from time-to-time, based on conferences and webinars offered, I have reported on the projections of key consultants at Houston-based IHS Chemical.


On Nov. 3, I blogged about the outlook for PE within the next five years that was presented at GPS2015 by Nick Vafiadis, global business director of plastics & polyolefins at IHS Chemical. Let me just mention his key points for end of 2015 and 2016. He noted that prices would remain flat through year’s end and into the first part of first quarter; placed total demand increase through third quarter at 4.5%; and, average PE plant operating rates at 94.4%, in what has been a well-balanced market.


But he projected change coming. The first one by end of first quarter, with PE prices likely to increase by 3ȼ/lb, driven by tighter ethylene supply due to a heavy first quarter cracker turnaround schedule. But, the big story, starts in the subsequent two quarters when new production from new entrants comes on stream fully, and Vafiadis predicts PE prices dropping. With regard to HDPE, in particular, Vafiadis anticipates that prices may separate from other resins due to increased competition. Vafiadis’ key takeaway to PE processors: leverage competition and reduce contract commitments leaving room for spot purchases.    


The 2016 PE outlook shared by RTi’s Burns is somewhat on the same page, though he does not see PE prices moving up due to the planned ethylene cracker turnarounds. He points out that 65% of global PE is made from crude oil derivative naphtha and maintains that North American PE suppliers will have to price their resins within 10ȼ/lb of the global price to keep imported finished products and exported resin markets balanced. As such, the RTi oil-pellet formula should continue to gauge pricing with oil changes; every $10/bbl change in either direction equates to a 4-5ȼ/lb in PE prices. Here are some other key points in Burn’s 2016 PE outlook:


Short-term, first quarter 2016: The most recent change in the global PE markets will be the impact of continued price decreases in China. Currently, the Chinese PE price is now at the lowest since first quarter 2009, and only 5ȼ/lb above the low in fourth quarter 2008. He points out that soft demand and lower oil prices will continue the downward pressure in China and Southeast Asia. “North America may have to respond to the lower pricing if the trend continues.”


Overall 2016 North American PE prices: Expect suppliers to continue to push for price increases. Without any global drivers present to support increases, opportunistic events may be their only possibility of succeeding. Burns advises processors to manage their inventories as needed and keep their eye on oil prices. Centered on the average price of oil since September 2015 of $45/bbl, Burns ventures that 2016 PE prices are likely to average 4ȼ/lb over the December 2015 price based on oil prices in due course, moving to the high $50’s/bbl. He expects suppliers to become very aggressive as the 2017 contract negotiations are initiated toward end of next year. Their main concern: losing market share to another supplier.


Supply/Demand: Steady demand growth in 2016 will not surpass the new capacities expected in the next two years. North American expansions for 2016 include Nova Chemicals with 400 million/lbs of LLDPE and Ineos/Sassol with 450 million/lbs of HDPE. According to Burns, the 45-billion/lb North American PE market already exceeds demand by nearly 20%. (He pointed out that just last month, there was a build-up of supplier inventories despite the fact that exports were up.) Moreover, he notes that Braskem’s Mexico expansion of 2-billion/lbs coming on stream next year, will directly impact North American LDPE and HDPE exports into Mexico and Latin America.


Operating rates: The low cost of production in North America will continue to support 90%+ operating rates. PE suppliers will take advantage of the higher global resin price and export any incremental volume. Suppliers have historically produced around 90% of capacity…it is unlikely that production rates will decrease with new investments adding capacities.


Supplier inventory: Inventory levels will continue to be healthy as supply improves nearly 7%, outpacing expected North American demand. The lowest inventory data for 2015 was higher than the highest points from the two previous years. PE inventories have improved after a year of limited disruptions.


Supplier Margins: Profit margins for PE suppliers will remain healthy in 2016. The cost to produce and deliver PE pellets from the integrated supplier is below 33ȼ/lb.


Exports: Domestic PE exports will continue to be the main outlet for incremental volume. The three-year average has been near 20% of production. As production increases, exports will have to keep pace equalizing inventories. North American suppliers will have to offer prices that are near the prices of the “oil pellets” offered from Thailand and Korea to compete. Latin America and Mexico will be the preferred destination, procuring over 65% of the export volume.


Winners of SPE Auto Innovation Awards in Safety, Environmental, Aftermarket

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 10. December 2015

Take a look at the winners of three more categories of SPE Automotive Division’s 2015 Blue Ribbon Automotive Innovation Awards: safety, environmental, and the newly-added “aftermarket”. This is my third blog this week covering the grand award winners of each of nine categories. I do plan to blog about some of the finalists within some of those nine categories in the near future as their innovations also merit attention.


Safety: Floor Rocker Reinforcement

The 2015 Jeep Renegade SUV from FCA features an industry-first plastic-metal hybrid alternative to steel floor rocker reinforcements, which results in savings of 45% (2.2 lbs) in weight and 10% in cost. FCA worked with Italy’s tier one Proma Group and injection molder Redstamp Srl., and materials supplier SABIC, Houston, to develop this unique component.


The application involved a blend of two immiscible polymers—a PPE and a nylon 6—that resulted in a high-performance alloy. An optimized SABIC Noryl GTX 910 MPPE/PA 6 honeycomb geometry in this plastic/metal hybrid proved to be a very efficient energy absorbing crash-box structure in this floor rocker reinforcement.  The result is a component that is E-coat capable (electrophoretic painting)--which offers high-corrosion resistance, but is also very easy to assemble into the vehicle’s BIW (body-in-white or shell). Because the plastic honeycomb is integrally attached to two steel flanges during injection molding, no structural adhesives are needed. In addition to the weight and cost savings, the hybrid innovation contributed tool savings versus the previous steel structures.


Environmental: Seat Fabric from Recycled Materials

The 2015 Ford F-150 pickup features the first application of a seat fabric made from a fiber that is a hybrid of 100% recycled materials—both post-industrial PET fiber and post-consumer water bottles. The OEM partnered with tier one Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, Wis., automotive body cloth manufacturer Sage Automotive Interiors, Greenville, S.C., and Repreve PET yarn manufacturer Unifil Manufacturing, Greensboro, N.C.


The fabric meets Ford’s design and comfort requirements without any compromise in quality, durability, or performance. Moreover, the switch from virgin fiber was achieved at cost parity, while providing significant environmental benefits, including the diversion of over 5-million water bottles from landfills in just one year. To help close the loop further, there are now PET bottle collection bins installed at the Ford Research & Engineering campus. The bottles are recycled to help form this fiber.


Aftermarket: Transparent Lightweight Wind Deflector

Designed for GM’s 2016 Corvette Stingray convertible sports car is the first use of a self-mounted, transparent and frameless wind deflector for convertible cars that meets AS2 ANSI and ECE requirements. This steeply raked design minimizes air turbulence and noise when the top is down. The OEM partnered with tier one Polytec FOHA, Warren, Mich., and materials supplier SABIC, Houston, which supplied a Lexan 9043 PC with Exatec 900-PC coating for the processing of the CNC-trimmed sheet.


This is the first-ever Exatec 900-PC glazing application of back glass, which is expected to lead into future back-lite integration of PC glazing. It was chosen because of abrasion and weathering resistance beyond traditional hard-coat. The SABIC technology lowered mass by 33% versus a glass design, and allowed a contoured shape to be achieved that would have been difficult and costly in glass. A laser-etched monogram under the surface is unobtrusive to vision during driving, yet visible during inspection, and it meets regulatory requirements for glass marking. A plasma coating enhances scratch, chemical, and UV resistance for a long use life.


Winners of SPE Auto Awards in Powertrain, Chassis & Process Assembly

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 9. December 2015

Take a look at the winners of the SPE Automotive Division 2015 Blue Ribbon Automotive Innovation Awards in the categories of Powertrain, Chassis/Hardware, and Process/Assembly.


Powertrain: Heated-Tip Fuel Injector

The 2015 Honda Fit subcompact and Honda City vehicles sold in Brazil feature the innovative heated-tip port fuel injector that improves cold-start performance in ethanol-fueled vehicles. Its development was a joint effort between Honda Motors, Delphi Automotive (U.S. office in Troy, Mich.) and DuPont Automotive, Wilmington, Del.


The Delphi Multec 3.5 Heated Tip Port Fuel Injector technology addresses an issue that has plagued vehicles that run on 100 percent ethanol (E100): This fuel will not form a combustible vapor at cold temperatures (below 55 F) so engine-starting is not possible with a conventional system. In Brazil, where this fuel is commonly used, most automakers have had to add a second gasoline fuel system for starting at colder temperatures. This team solved this issue with this innovation which features an electrical heater within the injector which is energized by the vehicle controller, rapidly heating the ethanol fuel and dramatically improving vaporization while reducing emissions.


Ink materials (dielectric, conductive, and resistive inks) used in the construction of the heater, selected for their specific thermal and adhesive properties and performance, as well as the thick film ink-printing process on the injector body were key to this development. Moreover, the overmold material more than sealed the deal. DuPont developed a high performance nylon (Zytel HTN54G35EF BKB336 PPA) to withstand heater temperatures without degradation. This unique polymer was designed with low halide ion content with heat stabilization, while being compatible with the unique heater inks.


The material viscosity and injection molding process were optimized to prevent collapse of the thin-wall injector body and distortion of heated tip injector terminals during molding. A laser-etchable colorant was added to the polymer to provide part manufacturing identifications. This device saved $60/vehicle as well as 19.84 lbs  to improve fuel economy, along with significantly lowering costs by eliminating a secondary gasoline sub-tank system.  



Process/Assembly/Enabling Technologies: IMX Instrument Panel

Hyundai Motor’s 2014 Hyundai i20 supermini, via a two-shot compression-injection molding process, features the soft IMX TPO instrument panel (IP) that eliminates scratches and a hard plastic feel.


Hyandai America Tech Center, Inc., Superior Township, Mich., worked with tier one supplier Hyundai-Mobis and materials supplier Hanwha L&C to bring this IP to fruition. The back-foamed foil Multiflex 3202 TPO is compression-injected with the filled PP substrate which in turn is then integrally injection molded with the TPO passenger-side airbag door. All the work is done in a single tool. To increase the foam’s softness and stability of the integral injection molding, the TRIZ (Theory of Inventive Problem Solving) method and experimental tools were used. The resulting part saves $10/vehicle and reduces mass by 0.66 lbs by the integration of the airbag door.


Chassis/Hardware: Fiberglass/Epoxy Composite Coil Spring

Audi AG’s 2015 Audi A6 Avant wagon features a weight-saving epoxy/fiberglass composite coil spring that is the first of its kind to be used in the suspension system of a series-production vehicle. Audi worked with Italy’s tier one S.ARA Composites, part of the SOGEFI group, and materials supplier Hexion, Inc., Columbus, Ohio to develop this unique part to replace traditional steel coil springs.


Significant work was done by Hexion on the Epikote epoxy chemistry and resin/fiberglass interface to ensure efficient load transfer and long-term mechanical performance. In addition to developing the optimized composite, a patented, modified filament winding process was developed—proven to be a cost-effective production method capable of meeting build volumes. The new coils springs reduced weight by 40% and enabled the suspension system to react more quickly to changing road surface conditions, which improved both vehicle handling and NVH (noise, vibration, harshness).

Winners of SPE Auto Innovation Awards in Materials, Body Interior & Exterior

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 8. December 2015

Spanning nine categories, the winners of the SPE Automotive Division 2015 Blue Ribbon Automotive Innovation Awards, for which delightedly I was a participating judge, are unique and represent many “firsts”, whether it be metal replacement or a better plastic replacement. Thermoplastics weighed-in in six of the awards, with thermosets featured in two, and a fabric made of 100% recycled PET bottles among the “firsts”.


Take a look at the materials category whose winner was selected the “grand award winner”, as well as the body interior and body exterior winners.


Materials: Ultralight Class A Body Panels

GM’s 2016 Chevrolet Corvette sports cars feature 21 body panel assemblies, depending on the model, made with the new TCA (tough Class A) Ultra Lite SMC, a compound formulated and compression molded by Continental Structural Plastics, Auburn Hills, Mich. With a specific gravity (SG) of 1.2, this SMC compound, offers mass reductions of 28% and 43%, respectively, versus CSP’s 1.6 SG TCA Lite SMC and conventional 1.9 SG SMC grades.


The 19% (>20 lbs) weight savings achieved with the new TCA Ultra Lite vs the earlier TCA Lite was enabled by the use of hollow glass microspheres which replaced traditional heavier fillers such as calcium carbonate, along with CSP’s proprietary surface treatment on the microspheres which promotes chemical bonding to the unsaturated polyester resin matrix. The improved resin/microsphere interface plays a key role in boosting both mechanical properties and adhesion properties for the SMC components. Also touted is improved paint adhesion, especially after humidity or water exposure. Superior surface treatment and paintability are key features of these ultralight Class A body panels which include: doors, decklids (trunks), hatch, door surrounds, quarter panels, fenders, convertible tonneau assembly, and coupe roof bow.


Body Interior: Rear-Seat Folding Head Restraint

The Ford 2015 F-150 pickup features a rear-seat, folding head restraint that eliminates a welded steel structure and replaces it with a single-piece, living hinge thermoplastic core as its main structural component. (Typical rear head restraints use steel underpinning covered in plastic shrouding.) Automotive global Tier I supplier specializing in custom head restraints and armrests Windsor Machine Group and custom molder Hawk Plastics, both based in Ontario, teamed up to design and injection mold this unique head restraint using a standard random PP copolymer from Exxon Mobil Chemical.


This unique single-piece plastic core results in reduced thickness from 2.56 in. to 1.26 in. for improved comfort and rear visibility, a mass savings of 1.38 lb/vehicle, while significantly reducing manufacturing complexity by eliminating the need for special tooling processes thanks to consolidation of five parts into one. Tooling costs are reduced by $180, with piece price reduced by $1.50/vehicle, while still meeting or exceeding all global safety requirements. Moreover, the technology has been applied to the 2016 Ford Explores and is planned for at least three additional programs.


Body Exterior: Push-to-Release Exterior Serviceability Fastener

The 2015 Ford Mustang features a unique fastener that only requires that you push the center pin to the service position to remove—an 80% reduction in removal time--compared to other easy-service fasteners which have two twist heads to release along with the risk of unintentional removal.


Designed and manufactured by ITW Deltar Fasteners, Troy, Mich., the new fastener is made of Vydyne 47H nylon 66 from Houston-based Ascend Performance Materials. The pin and body are designed not to be easily separated; however, the fastener is reusable, unlike other push pins that become damaged in the process of removal. The part meets the 10-lb insertion ergonomic requirement, and the EU ECE-R04 lighting service regulation, and its low profile meets exterior craftsmanship. It decreases the chance of unintended release: it cannot back out or be removed from the install position without deliberate actions by the customer. Finally, there is a 10% cost reduction in piece cost from comparable service fasteners on the Mustang.



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