An unusual soft-touch polypropylene material is about to make its first appearance in auto interior components. The Softell family was first introduced in Europe in 2004 and is now being actively marketed in North America by LyondellBasell Industries (formerly Basell), Wilmington, Del. Its first automotive uses—door and instrument panels, glove-box doors, and window surrounds—are due to appear in this quarter on several different brands of European cars. In North America, I.P.s and door panels are also slated for 2009 vehicles, according to Jane Horal, Basell’s interior segment manager in Lansing, Mich. Softell is based on a series of ethylene-propylene plastomers made in-reactor by Basell’s Catalloy process. Softell auto interior grades are compounded with PP and glass fiber to achieve range of hardnesses and property profiles. Five current automotive grades have Shore hardnesses from 83A to 63D and elastic moduli from 80 to 4000 MPA (11,600 psi to 580,000 psi). The softer end of the range is Softell TKS 209N with no glass fiber and the harder end is Softell TKG 317N with 25% glass. Softell with molded-in color is offered as an alternative to PC/ABS with soft-touch paint for I.P.s, consoles, arm rests and other parts requiring a low-gloss, luxurious look. Business manager Todd Glogovsky says that Softell provides low gloss (60° gloss less than 2) like paint, the feel of soft-touch paint, and good scratch and mar resistance. It also offers ductility at -30 C (-22 F), with no fragmentation, making it suitable for seamless airbag applications. (Photo shows Softell TKG300N after dart impact at -30 C and 15 mph.) Glogovsky notes that Softell is being formulated over an even wider property range than the current five grades, making it suitable for either a one-material I.P. solution or use as just a skin material—either two-shot molded or extruded and thermoformed. (800) 955-3223 • www.basell.com
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