First Vehicle to Have a Thermoplastic Composite Primary Suspension Spring

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. May 2016


Springs and upper control arms of the Polystrand GT-Lite racecar are made from nylon 6 with continuous glass reinforcement.


A purpose-built racing vehicle designed to highlight the application of thermoplastic composites in automotive applications recently competed for the first time at the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Majors event at the Motor Speedway Resort (MSR) Houston—a 17-turn 2.38-mile road course race track located in Angleton, Texas.


Bodied as a 1987 Honda CRX, the Polystrand GT-Lite racecar reportedly is believed to be the first motor vehicle to use continuously reinforced thermoplastic composites as the primary suspension springs. “We strongly believe that reinforced thermoplastics offer an excellent opportunity in automotive lightweighting applications due to their ease and speed of processing, and offer a cost-effective, recyclable alternative to current materials,” says Ed Pilpel, president of Polystrand Inc., Engelwood, Col.


Here are some key details to this apparent milestone. The springs and upper control arms of this multi-link independent rear suspension system, which was designed by Polystrand senior engineer Jonathan Spiegel, are manufactured from nylon 6 and are reinforced with TufRov 4510 continuous E-glass from Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries.


The prototype springs were compression molded from Polystrand continuously reinforced thermoplastic tape at the Materials Processing and Application Development Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Engineering. Also featured on the car is a reinforced PP front splitter, which is an aerodynamic aid, and hybrid interior sandwich panels made of reinforced PETG thermally bonded between thin layers of aluminum and stainless steel, manufactured in-house at Polystrand utilizing PPG TufRov 4588 reinforcement.


“While we experience several teething problems in this first outing, chasing minor electrical and braking problems during the event that prevented us from finishing the races, the suspension system performed beyond expectations, allowing us to maintain a second place positon while on the track. The MSR track is known for being rough, so this was a good test of the suspension’s compliance. Handling balance was very good, and the car maintained excellent traction at high speeds even over the notoriously bumpy pavement.”


Want to keep abreast on the latest developments in automotive lightweighting enabled by thermoplastics composites? Do so by Registering for our second presentation of “Thermoplastics Composites for Automotive” (TCC Auto2016) conference on June 15-16 at the Suburban Collection Showcase in Novi, Mich. TCC Auto2016 is presented by Plastics Technology magazine and CompositesWorld, sister publications within Gardner Business Media, and will be concurrent with the Amerimold 2016 show and conference, presented by Gardner’s MoldingMaking Technology magazine.


Read more about applications and materials TCC Auto 2016


Read more about machinery and processes at TCC Auto 2016


Read more about carbon-fiber reinforced PP compounds at TCC Auto 2016

Thermoplastic composite primary suspension spring


Global Oversupply of PE, PP Better for Processors, Tougher on Producers

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 25. May 2016

As we approach the mid-year mark, IHS addresses how the competitive landscape is changing for global polyolefins.


Dull, is one thing pricing trends for polyolefins is not, particularly in the last few years as North American producers for both PE and PP became the leaders in low-cost production and enjoyed quite excellent profit margins. “The surge of shale gas derived feedstock has enabled North American polyethylene and polypropylene producers to achieve a level of cost-competitiveness that is unprecedented, since the Middle East has traditionally served as the world’s lowest-cost producer for these products,” says Nick Vafiadis, global business director of polyolefins and plastics at Houston-based IHS Chemical.


Meanwhile, a surge in new plastics chemical capacity coming from North America, the Middle East and China is driving the global market for PE and PP to oversupply, which will pressure margins for producers and change the global competitive landscape, according to IHS. Within the 2015-2020 timeframe, IHS has estimated that nearly 53 billion/lb of added new PE capacity will come on stream—more than one-third of which, about 18 billion, will come from the U.S. This will significantly increase the U.S. net-export position for PE and PP and other chemicals, rebalancing the global chemical trade flows that have favored the Middle East for decades.


Says Vafiadis, “In the near-term, this excess capacity is good news for North American converters, who will be more competitive on a global basis due to the increased competition associated with the PE capacity expansions. However, on the producer side, economics will be challenged in the near-term as global capacity expansions exceed demand growth and pressure margins.”


Beyond North America, China is also growing as a key, low-cost provider of PE, thanks to its production additions from coal-to-olefins technology. China is expected to add about 37.5 billion/lb of new PE/PP capacity within the five-year timeframe, which will drive further market volatility, according to Vafiadis. “The U.S. and China are now competing with the Middle East for global PE/PP market share, which should have significant impact on pricing and margins, so at IHS, we expect to see big changes ahead for the global industry…there will be significant imbalances as we see North America and the Middle East both add more PE capacity than is warranted for their domestic markets, so exports will be key for producers,” he says.


In Europe, imports from the Middles East in 2016 so far have surpassed 2015 numbers, as the region continued to see strong demand and offered attractive net-backs for Middle East producers. HDPE import figures for January and February 2016 overall, were the highest of the last eight years at 326 million/lb, while exports were the lowest for the same period at only 92.5 million/lb. According to IHS, a similar but less pronounced trend is occurring for other PE grades as well. 


“According to our IHS Chemical forecasts, we expect Asian pricing for PE to remain depressed for the remainder of 2016, and with European producers giving little margin away, this will mean netbacks from the Middle East to Europe will remain attractive in the coming months. The net result will mean PE imports will continue to arrive in Europe at relatively high levels from the Middle East,” Vafiadis says.


All this and more, will be discussed by IHS experts at the PEPP 2016: 24th Annual Polyethylene/Polypropylene Chain Global Technology and Business Forum, June 1-3, 2016, at the Swissotel Zurich in Switzerland. “One of the key issues of discussion will be the next wave of polymer capacity additions worldwide, and the ripples it will have throughout the supply chain. The additional supply will result in major changes in market dynamics, increasing trade flows and driving the need for improved supply chain management. We will also explore evolving consumer trends and regulations, which mean increasing demand for enhanced product quality in several end uses such as packaging and automotive,” says Vafiadis.


Low oil prices could make the environment even more attractive for new plastics applications, which will drive new innovations in PE/PP technology and applications, ventures Vafiadis.


Search for PE and PP resins in PT’s materials database.


More New LED Lighting Materials—LSRs, PPs and PCs

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 22. May 2016

Wacker’s LSR encapsulants, Trinseo’s advanced PC, and Panasonic’s light diffusion PP are among the latest options.


My third PT blog installment on interesting information that did not make it into New Materials Shine Bright in Growing LED Market, our upcoming June cover story, discusses new materials from Wacker Chemie, Trinseo, and Panasonic.


Wacker Chemie, LSR Encapsulants for LEDs and Optical Components. Wacker’s new LSR compounds Lumisil 590 and 591 are highly transparent, addition-curing silicone elastomers with a refractive index of 1.53, which means they rank among the high-refractive-index (HRI) encapsulants. Such grades are particularly well suited for manufacturing highly-efficient LEDs. The HRI silicone protects the sensitive LED chip against mechanical influences and corrosive gases. At the same time, the silicone’s high refractive index enables optimum light efficiency.


Semiconductor chips used to generate light in LEDs have a high refractive index. To maximize the amount of light emitted by the LED chip that can pass through the encapsulation, the refractive index of the chip and encapsulant must be roughly the same value. Thanks to their refractive index of 1.53, Lumisil 590 and 591 reportedly make LEDs highly efficient. What’s more, the highly transparent silicones are almost completely transparent for light in the visible spectra range (400 to 700 nm) and reportedly do not yellow even when radiation is extremely intense. Transmission tests with Lumisil 590 show that a one-millimeter-thick layer lets over 91% of visible light through. These two materials are said to protect the LED chip reliably against environmental influences. Corrosive gases such as hydrogen sulfide can damage the LED chip and reduce its performance. Tests show that LED chips encapsulated with these materials are protected against such damage longer and have a prolonged life.


These new HRI silicones are said to be easy to process, heat-resistant and absolutely tack-free after curing. They also exhibit optimized flow and crosslinking characteristics. With a viscosity of the mix of 2000 and 2500 mPas respectively, they enable efficient, cost-effective processing. Both products are suitable for encapsulating the LED chip via contact-free dispensing processes, and they form cured rubber grades of varying hardness. With a hardness of Shore A 65, Lumisil 590 is relatively soft, whereas Lumisil 591 is formulated to be significantly harder at Shore D 40.


 Trinseo, Emerge PC 8330LT Advanced Resin & Tyril 905UV SAN. Trinseo began supporting the LED lighting market sector early on in the industry’s evolution and offers a broad portfolio of materials under the Caliber PC and Emerge Advance Resin brands, including: transparent, light diffusion, ignition resistant, and reflective grades used by several global OEMs for lenses, optics, diffusers, reflectors, and housings.


Late last year, it launched next-generation materials including Emerge PC 8330LT, an advanced PC that has been recognized for its ability to fill the need for a transparent, thin-gauge, flame-retardant plastic. It is UL94 rated V-0 at 1.0mm and 5VA at 2.5mm. Also, new is cost-effective acrylic alternative Tyril 905UV SAN resin.


Panasonic Corp., Light Diffusion PP Molding Compounds. Panasonic has developed a light diffusion type PP molding compound which reportedly can extend the operating life of LEDs. Key applications include automotive interior lighting, outdoor sign boards, store lighting, and water-related lighting, as well as digital signage.


Branded Full Bright PP, the compounds are said to be an industry first in that, in addition to injection molding, they are applicable to injection stretch blow molding, enabling processors to form complex shapes with greater freedom based on individual customer applications. The new compounds are said to allow for the production of 0.02-9n. (0.5-mm) molding, which was previously unachievable; achieve less than 10% thickness accuracy by processing; and, unlike the company’s previously used conventional PP molding compound, they will not generate a hole when a product is blown to 0.02-in thickness.


The Full Bright PP compounds are also said to have overcome the weak light resistance of the conventional PP molding compounds and achieved excellent resistance to chemicals, contributing to extending the operating life of the LED lighting. Its UV resistance is as follows: under an environment of 90 C+ (UV radiation intensity of 400W mercury lamp-30cm distance), discoloration after 90 days of exposure (about 2000 hrs). Its ∆E is 2.0 or below, which is equivalent to 10 years in outdoor environments; this compared to the company’s previous PP molding compound with a ∆E of 17. Finally, the PP compounds’ low specific gravity contributes to lightweight design of LED lighting devices.


Read Part I, LSR Developments in LEDs for Automotive and Street Lighting


Read Part II, Plastic Heat Sinks for LEDs “Shine” for Two Lighting Component Manufacturers


Search for more of Wacker’s LSR and Trinseo’s PC and SAN offerings in PT’s materials database

Plastic Heat Sinks for LEDs “Shine” for Two Lighting Component Manufacturers

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 19. May 2016

PolyOne’s Therma-Tech compounds prove their mettle replacing aluminum as an LED heat sink.


Here’s my second of a three-part installment to PT’s blog on interesting information that did not get into our upcoming June cover story: New Materials Shine Bright in Growing LED Market (read the first part on LED opportunities in automotive and street lighting). PolyOne, Cleveland, Ohio gets the space here with a focus on two case studies where its Therma-Tech thermally conductive formulations, which utilize proprietary additives and various engineering thermoplastics, proved a smart option for two European lighting manufacturers.


Savvy plastics suppliers who are leading in the LED materials arena have been striving to replace the traditional highly-conductive die-cast aluminum heat sinks in LED luminaires. This in addition to their advancements in other key LED areas such as lenses, optics, reflectors, housings and sockets. The metal heat sinks represent a substantial part of the cost of LED luminaires. Material suppliers believe that the use of plastic heat sinks would prove beneficial for the vast majority of LED luminaires, as they can reduce assembly costs , increase design freedom and consolidate parts. In the two PolyOne case studies, this certainly proved true.


Kruunutekniikka Oy of Finland, an injection molding contractor with expertise in lighting components, knew that it could provide manufacturers of heat-sensitive LED products with improved manufacturability and performance by producing non-metal heat sinks at scale. Company product engineers came up with specifications that called for thermal conductivity in plane from 4 to 21 W/m.K (in compliance with ASTM E1461; glow wire resistance of 850 C/0.8mm (IEC 606095-2-12); and enough dimensional stability to allow it to be overmolded directly on LED components. The next step: find the right material.


PolyOne Therma-Tech LED heat sink


Kruunutekniikka’ design engineering team collaborated with PolyOne in looking at potential options before developing a material that combined two grades of Therma-Tech thermal management compounds, both based on high-temperature nylons. The formulation was tested and phased into production, with the Kruunutekniikka Coolics brand quickly adopting the material throughout its line of customized LED cooling systems. The material added immediate benefits including: complex designs at lower costs than metal; lighter weight; inherent corrosion resistance; adaptability for ingress protection up to IP67; high-heat resistance; compliance with UL94-V0 flammability standards; and options for either electrically conductive or insulating properties.


The overall impact of this collaboration on Kruunutekniika included: a cost saving of more than 10%. Contributing factors: the Therma-Tech formulation required 37% less material due to its lower density; and substantial savings were realized during high-volume production thanks to a switch from die casting to injection molding, as well as elimination of secondary steps needed to achieve net shape with die casting. Startup times also were reduced. The company also cited that production scrap from the injection molding process can be fully recycled as part of an in-line process, helping it to meet its sustainability goals.


Mars Otomotiv, a Turkey-based maker of lighting for the global auto and transportation industries had built a good segment of its thriving business since 2004 around LED products. However up until a couple of years ago, they were sourcing their die-cast aluminum heat sinks from a sub-supplier, which required Mars to do secondary work, including removal of flash, drilling holes and surface treatment to prevent corrosion. Use of a supplier for the parts also led to unexpected costs and shipping delays, created logistics challenges and tied up stock and working capital.


Mars engineers collaborated with PolyOne to explore non-metal options. They eventually settled on Therma-Tech TT6600-5001EC, based on nylon 66 as the best choice to provide comparable heat dissipation. Still, they faced the significant hurdle for retooling costs. Mars owned the tooling used to form the metal heat sinks, and wanted to adapt the existing mold to accommodate the new material. Working with PolyOne’s technical team, Mars engineers were able to alter the mold so it could process the thermoplastic. They completed the metal-to-plastic transition in less than four months, bringing production in-house while essentially using the same tooling.


Today, Mars Otomotiv benefits from the simplified logistics of molding heat sinks in house, including reduced order lead time, improved on-time order completion and more working capital.  The thermal dissipative performance of the thermoplastic heat sink is equivalent to that of the aluminum, even the highest-power HB LED model, which provides 27 total watts in nine HB (high-brightness) LEDs. Specific gains include: 39% reduction in the weight of finished assemblies; 50% increase in the number of molded heat sinks produced each day; 20% reduction in the total cost to produce each heat sink, and elimination of secondary finishing operations.  


Look for more material developments for the LED lighting sector in  PT’s June issue, including PolyOne’s brand new premium light diffusing sheet UltraTuf LED (below), which can transmit between 80-90% of light while still effectively diffusing the LED points of light across the lens.


Read Part I of Lilli's LED Series—LSR for Street and Auto LED Lighting


Read Part III of Lilli's LED Series—LSRs, PPs and PCs for LED Lighting


Search for more of PolyOne’s Therma-Tech materials in PT’s materials database.


PolyOne light-diffusing sheet UltraTuf LED

LSR Developments in LEDs for Automotive and Street Lighting

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 16. May 2016

LSR’s resistance to UV light and high temperatures allow direct contact to LED, while low injection pressure allows overmolding of sensitive parts.


The materials feature in our upcoming June issue discusses the latest developments in LED lighting materials and how savvy material suppliers have been adapting to this rapidly evolving technology. Since I could not fit everything I wanted to into the article, I’m taking the opportunity here to share some of the interesting things that didn’t make the cut in three blog installments.


The first two involve case studies: this one on Momentives’s clear LSR lens and optics developments, and the next one on PolyOne’s ThermaTech thermally conductive compounds in LED heat sink applications. A third will highlight new materials for the LED lighting sector from Trinseo and Wacker.


Momentive Performance Materials Inc., Waterford, N.Y., is among the leading suppliers of LSR that have seen the potential for their materials to play a major role in the ever-expanding LED lighting sector where applications now range from interior and exterior illumination; automotive and transportation lighting; backlighting for TVs, computers, phone displays; and signs and billboards.


The two case studies below exemplify Momentive’s advances in automotive and street lighting as relayed by HeeSeok Hwang, senior global project manager. As Hwang summed it up, “The typical properties of ultra-clear LSRs enable totally new functions for LED applications. LSR’s UV-light and high-temperature resistance allow direct contact to LED; low viscosities and low injection pressures allow overmolding of mechanically sensitive inserts; and the LSR-injection process enables ultra-precision shaping of microstructures. Taking this and thinking toward the future, Momentive has taken an additional step to improve the efficiency of lighting technology through LSR.”



Automotive Lighting:

Together with partners in the industry and supported by national means of Germany’s major research organization Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a team of Momentive LSR specialists has started to work on a new injection molding process to overmold a LED chip with Momentive’s Silopren LSR7080HP LSR. The objective is to combine primary and secondary optics in one component to reduce assembly, improve efficiency, and to downsize the complete lighting component. The project involves analysis of optical performance, molding precision, and the bond strength between the LED board and the LSR as well as long-term properties.


The molding of microstructures on the surface of the LSR lens will be also be tested. Momentive is working with Germany’s Hella, a producer of automotive headlamps and lighting equipment, the IKV institute of plastic technologies; and Austria’s Elmet, a manufacturer of high-precision LSR molds and injection molding equipment. To date, it has been demonstrated that the overmolding process can work without the use of any bonding agent, correspond to the simulation, and not show any optical defects. Endurance tests of the combined primary and secondary optics are ongoing and promising.


Street Lighting: 

Momentive’s next-generation Ultra Clear Silopren LSR grade combines Ultra Clear LSR technology with a specialty polymer technology, enabling luminaires to be equipped with high flame retardance above UL 94 flame class rating for V-1. Momentive has been working with global experts in the lighting industry such as Italy’s Khatod Optoelectronic, a leading manufacturer of optical solutions. “This application is very technical and Khatod was searching for a material able to comply with the various optical, mechanical, and molding process requirements needed for the realization of unique, high-performance optics,” said Dieter Wrobel, corporate fellow at Momentive. After and in-depth analysis and numerous laboratory tests, Khatod determined that Momentive’s Ultra Clear Silopren LSR 7000 series was an ideal match for this applications.


Khatod recently used Momentive ultra-clear LSR in SIO3 silicone lenses. There lenses are said to represent a breakthrough in LED lighting technology and are the world’s first range of free-form lenses made of LSR which are optimized for the most popular HB (high-brightness) and COB (chip-on-board) LEDs. “Khatod is a real innovator in the LED lighting industry. Our SIO3 lenses boast cutting-edge engineering and exclusive cold runner-based LSR injection molding process specially customized by Khatod for optical silicone processing. This innovative construction process preserves and enhances the typical characteristics of silicone and makes the lenses excellent for any application in LED lighting requiring excellent lighting performance as well as a robust long life, safe and reliable service,” said Giuseppe Vast, president of Khatod. Khatod’s  new SIO3 silicone lenses recently won the LED Magazine’s SSL Enabling Technologies Sapphire Award, which highlighted the most inspirational and innovative products in the LED marketplace. 


Read Part II, Plastic Heat Sinks for LEDs “Shine” for Two Lighting Component Manufacturers


Read Part III of Lilli's LED Series—LSRs, PPs and PCs for LED Lighting


Search LSRs in PT’s Materials Database.

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