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Bayer MaterialScience generates technologies of the future for the automotive industry

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 24 August, 2007  (Company News)
The world's carmakers produce around 60 million new vehicles every year, that's about 1.9 new cars a second. Because the annual fuel consumption of all these vehicles is increasing accordingly, there is an ever-growing demand for lightweight components made of high-performance plastics produced by companies like Bayer MaterialScience, who are world leaders on the polymers market.
Lightweight plastic add-on body parts play a key role in terms of cutting down vehicle weight. But in addition to this urgent need for energy efficiency and the car manufacturers' call for lean production processes, consumers, too, are becoming ever more demanding. Nowadays, functionality on its own is not enough. Appearance is equally important. As a result, manufacturers are looking for coating technologies that fully comply with these demands.

This is why Bayer MaterialScience has devoted a considerable amount of time to the topic of 'mobility' in the workshop 'Polymers: Functional today, intelligent tomorrow?' at this year’s Perspective on Innovation. Here, the focus is on innovative coating solutions for vehicle components that could well revolutionize the market tomorrow. The market potential is, in any case, is available: by 2014, the demand for coated plastic parts for automotive applications is likely to nearly double.

'Reverse coating' a new key technology
To minimize costs, the automotive industry is nowadays tending towards offline processes for coating individual plastic body parts. The dual-cure coatings recently developed by Bayer MaterialScience are one way to save investment costs in expensive coating lines. They follow on directly from the soft-touch film technology presented in the 'Interaction' block, but with one difference: in the car body segment, hard, tough coatings are needed that can withstand abuse from the weather, grit and mechanical car washes throughout the car's entire life. For this reason, a base coat and clear coat are applied to the films, which initially are only partially cured. As a result, the film remains flexible enough to be thermoformed during the next step, and the finish stays smooth and crack-free. Only then is the coating cured by UV radiation. This innovative key technology is called 'reverse coating'. The thermoformed films can subsequently be reinforced by injection molding with thermoplastics or by reaction injection molding with polyurethane. The advantages are the same as with soft-touch films. The application of Bayer MaterialScience's dual-cure system is more economical, faster and less prone to flaws than the application of a subsequent coating.

Saving time and money with 'in-mold coating'
The Bayer MaterialScience 'in-mold coating' project is also at an advanced stage of development. This is an equally innovative two-step technology that yields attractive finishes outside conventional coating methods. The first step involves the production of the plastic component by RIM or injection molding and then, in the second step, one cavity further on, so to speak, injecting a reactive two-component polyurethane system into the closed mold, where it cures rapidly. In this way, molded parts can be given functional coatings or decorative finishes quickly and without the need for relatively complicated spray application. This highly effective process enhances productivity, permits short production cycle times and thus offers enormous savings potential.

Apart from being used in the automotive industry, IMC could in future also be employed to enhance the surfaces of everyday products and make them pleasant to the touch, for example in the household appliance industry, communications technology, the electrical and electronics segment, or for sports and leisure goods.

A 'watermark' for environmentally friendly coatings
Already well established on the market, on the other hand, are water-borne, environmentally friendly, two-component polyurethane coating systems. Used until now primarily for flooring and for wood and metal coatings, they are just as effective as their solvent-based counterparts and now are about to reach production-line application in automotive OEM. Bayer MaterialScience has already successfully tested the raw materials needed for this process and confirmed that they comply with the latest stringent E.U. environmental guidelines, the strict quality specifications laid down by the automotive industry, and consumers' demands for modern, ecologically compatible, optically attractive and highly resistant innovative coatings.

In wide-ranging research and development work, Bayer MaterialScience has also been cooperating with other industry partners to ensure that the application technology and the industrial plant engineering keeps pace with the unstoppable advance of application-friendly water-borne coatings. They are now ready for the production line and could, even tomorrow, represent a kind of 'watermark' in automotive coating for the quality of innovative products.

A major role in this development was played by the Bayer MaterialScience AutoCreative initiative. In close global consultation with the business units, vehicle manufacturers and parts suppliers, AutoCreative pools the know-how that will ensure a responsible, safe, environmentally friendly and, not least, consumer-oriented and more comfortable automotive future.

With sales of EUR 10.7 billion, Bayer MaterialScience AG is one of the world’s largest polymer manufacturers. Its main fields of activity are the production of hightech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in almost all areas of everyday life. The main consumer sectors are the automotive, electrical/electronics, construction, sports and leisure industries. Bayer MaterialScience is part of the Bayer Group, has production facilities at 40 sites around the world and a workforce of approx. 18,800.
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