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Commercial vehicles in the fast lane

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 19 July, 2004  (Company News)
Three members of Bayer's large 'polyurethane family' invited customers from the commercial vehicles sector to a conference - 'Polyurethane in the fast lane' - at Bad Honnef on June 30 and July 1.
This joint event organized by the Polyurethanes Business Unit of Bayer MaterialScience AG, Hennecke GmbH and BÜFA Polyurethane GmbH focused on uses for these versatile polymers in commercial vehicles. There was an overwhelming level of interest. Over 160 participants, more than 130 of these from 'polyurethane family' customers, took advantage of the impressive amount of information on offer to find out about the wide range of developments and applications - theoretical and above all practical - for this material.

'The most important signal for us was our customers' perception that, despite the restructuring phases, Bayer continues to show a strong presence on the market,' said Herbert Radunz, Head of the Automotive Systems segment in the Specialties Marketing Unit of the Polyurethanes Business Unit. 'Many participants asked for more events of this type. This confirms our policy of continuing to prioritize support for our customers and market participants in future.' 'Small and midsize customers were particularly interested in the opportunities on offer,' added Adolf Lammeck, an expert on polyurethane applications in motor vehicles.

The subject and target group of the event were not chosen by chance but because the commercial vehicle market in Germany is experiencing a noticeable upturn. In the first half of 2004, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) reported domestic and overseas order growth totaling 36 percent and 34 percent respectively. For the coming year too, the VDA is expecting a significant increase in demand.

Cost-effectiveness shapes development

On the technical side, there is a clear trend towards improving cost-effectiveness. A commercial vehicle needs to be able to transport the largest possible volume of goods. For the supplier this means larger and larger parts are needed. The materials used to construct vehicles are also becoming ever lighter to reduce diesel consumption. The production of the parts themselves must be geared to the small or medium-sized series usual in this industry.

The organizers presented a whole range of developments aimed at overcoming these challenges. These include the construction of lightweight parts that make a significant contribution to reducing fuel consumption. 'Thanks to important developments in polyurethane processing technology, larger and larger parts can be manufactured in a single operation, i.e. in one shot. Shot weights of up to 50 kilograms are now possible, and development is still ongoing,' said Dr. Wilhelm Lamberts, Managing Director of BÜFA Polyurethane.

By selecting suitable raw materials, it is possible to create different products such as rigid and flexible foams, solid components, decorative surfaces and composite sandwich elements. 'Further advantages include the straightforward, inexpensive manufacture of molds for polyurethane processing and the low plant investment costs compared to other processes,' said Gero Willmeroth, Head of Sales for the molded foam department at Hennecke. 'These factors are central to the cost-effective manufacture of small and midsize series.'

Emphasis on clarity

At the start of the conference, the participants were taken on a trip to the Bayer MaterialScience headquarters in Leverkusen. In the polyurethane Technical Service Center, they experienced at first hand the processes for e.g. foam-molding large parts from Baydur®, compression molding sandwich composites and back-molding instrument panels. The visitors were very impressed with the broad range of processing techniques and applications they were shown.

After returning to the conference hotel, the themes were then explored in greater detail in a total of 15 talks. The focus was on applications for the interior, bodywork and mechanical systems of commercial vehicles. The broad spectrum of applications proved just as versatile as the available raw materials and processes. For vehicle interiors, the topics ranged from coverings and structural parts to noise protection for the driver. For vehicle exteriors, there is an increasing trend towards replacing ever larger bodywork parts with plastics. Polyurethane can be used to make anything from fenders to the giant exterior components of combine harvesters.

Both in the Technical Service Center and the hotel, the participants were able to view a large number of exhibits - more than 65 in total. This gave them a good chance to take a look at series-produced parts and above all follow the processes involved, an opportunity that many participants took advantage of. Directly after the event, Hennecke organized a visit to its Technical Service Center in Sankt Augustin. There was a great deal of interest here too - more than 60 participants took up the invitation.
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