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Bayer Corporation Helps John Deere Develop New Soybean-Based Composite Material For Agricultural Combines

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 20 August, 2001  (Company News)
Both farmers and renowned agricultural equipment maker John Deere stand to harvest the benefits of a new composite material made with renewable agricultural products.
John Deere recently announced that its combines, which have been used by generations of farmers to harvest corn, soybeans, small grains and specialty crops, will soon sport strong, flexible and durable composite panels that are made with corn and soybeans. A soy-based polyurethane reaction injection molding (RIM) system developed by Bayer Corporation for John Deere helped to make this new composite possible.

Bayer Corporation believes this is the first commercial application of a soy-based formulation in a high-density structural foam polyurethane RIM system.

'Beginning with the 2002 model year, John Deere Harvester Works' entire line of combines will include body panels molded with HarvestForm® composite. This durable, new composite is extremely strong, and yet it weighs 25 percent less than steel,' said Barry Nelson, Manager, Public Relations, for John Deere.

Some HarvestForm composite panels will utilize a specially formulated Baydur® structural foam polyurethane RIM system, which utilizes a soybean-based polyol component, from Bayer's Polyurethanes Division.

From the Seed of an Idea

From the seed of an idea, the concept of soybean and corn-based composite panels blossomed in 1997 in a collaboration between John Deere, the United Soybean Board (USB) and the University of Delaware's ACRES (Affordable Composites from Renewable Resources) Program to develop farm equipment using soy-based polymers. Among several material suppliers involved, Bayer contributed to the production process with its knowledge of polyurethane RIM chemistry and processing. By 1999, a soy-based polymer was tested in the rear panel of 30 John Deere combines.

'When the program received the green light from John Deere, Bayer set to work to develop a Baydur® structural foam polyurethane RIM formulation based on soybeans that would produce physical properties and processing parameters equivalent to our conventional Baydur formulation,' said Harry George, Manager of Bayer's Specialty RIM Business. 'With additional input and collaboration from RIM molder G.I. Plastek, which molds combine parts for John Deere, we succeeded.'

At its Polyurethane Application Center in Pittsburgh, Bayer developed the polyurethane system chemistry, screened in-molding coatings for compatibility with the new soy- based composite and performed physical testing of prototype parts for John Deere.

'Bayer was very responsive to our desire to make this innovation work,' said John Cerny, an Engineer for John Deere who was responsible for this program. 'We asked Bayer to take a new approach to the chemistry of their material, and they were able to do it on our timeline for the early August rollout of the HarvestForm composite.'

'John Deere is proud to work closely with commodity checkoff organizations such as the USB and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) to make use of HarvestForm on the panels of its combines,' said Nelson. USB allocates funding from the soybean checkoff program to continuously research and develop new uses for soybeans. John Deere provided USB with technical support and aided in the commercialization of the product.

'We were pleased to be able to help demonstrate the viability of molding high- quality panels using the HarvestForm composites,' said Chuck LaGasse, President of G.I. Plastek, of Newburyport, Mass. 'Better still, we were able to demonstrate that our proprietary ProTek® In-Mold Coating System can be adapted to the new composite so that John Deere can continue to enjoy the benefits of this cost-saving alternative to painting.'

John Deere already uses Bayer's Baydur structural foam polyurethane RIM systems for several panels on its harvester combines.

For example, G.I. Plastek molds the approximately 6-foot by 6-foot, 75-pound rear wall of the STS combine with Bayer's Baydur structural foam polyurethane RIM system. John Deere is to convert production of this part to the HarvestForm composite using the re-formulated, soy-based Baydur RIM system.

Farmers can view John Deere combines featuring the HarvestForm composite at prominent farm shows, or at their local John Deere dealer.
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