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Caterpillar HVAC Enclosure Marks Groundbreaking Use Of Bayer Corporation's Polyurethane RIM System

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 02 August, 2001  (Company News)
Comfort might not be the first attribute that springs to mind when describing the operator cabs of heavy equipment. But that may change as heavy equipment manufacturers look for ways to improve the look and feel of cab interiors.
In the first application of its kind, Caterpillar is utilizing a reinforced structural foam polyurethane reaction injection molding (RIM) system from Bayer Corporation to form HVAC enclosures with a soft, tactile feel that's similar to an automobile interior, for its model 950, 966 and 980 Front End Loaders.

The Baydur« STR/F 651 polyurethane RIM system, supplied by Bayer's Polyurethanes Division, is reinforced with 15 percent fiberglass mat. The Baydur composite offers impact resistance, thermal stability to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and increased design flexibility.

In this application, Bayer's Baydur RIM system replaced polyester and fiberglass formed via resin transfer molding. The change reduced part weight by 50 percent and reduced cycle time significantly without sacrificing structural integrity. The Baydur system also helped impart the desirable soft touch.

The HVAC enclosure is the first part made in the United States by PLA-MA USA LLC, a joint venture of Nero Plastics, Owosso, Mich., and PLA-MA NV, Belgium. Tipping the scales at a trim 9 pounds, the enclosure consists of two separately molded pieces that are each 19 inches deep by 24 inches long. Wall thickness is a consistent 1/2 inch, except for the area where the lunch tray is bolted on, which is slightly thicker for added stability.

To mold the front piece, PLA-MA first sprays the mold with a release agent, then places a vinyl sheet, which will form the exterior skin, into the mold and clamps it into place. After a vacuum pulls the vinyl down into the mold cavity, an operator hand tucks the vinyl into the mold's recess. Next, a pre-cut piece of fiberglass mat, from Holline Glass Fiber, is laid over the vinyl and secured into place. The Baydur polyurethane is injected and the mold is closed for the 10-minute cycle time.

To mold the back piece, PLA-MA sprays the mold with a release agent, lays a pre-cut piece of fiberglass into the mold and injects the Baydur polyurethane system. Again, the cycle time is 10 minutes. After the front and back pieces are formed, they are water trimmed, bonded together with an adhesive, and then sent to Caterpillar, where accessories - including the air filter and lunch tray - are installed.

Beyond the attractive combination of properties the Baydur system offered, Bayer's global presence and technical support also played key roles in the success of this project, according to PLA-MA. 'This component is supplied identically in Belgium, Brazil, Japan and Aurora, Ill., so it was important for the supplier to support this project - in terms of technical expertise and material - on a global basis,' explained Brad Faber, PLA-MA Sales Manager. 'Bayer did just that.'
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