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Idleaire chooses Lexan EXL resin to withstand the rigours of the highway

GE Advanced Materials : 23 February, 2004  (Application Story)
Lexan EXL resin, one of GE Plastics
Based on proprietary siloxane copolymer technology, the Lexan EXL family of polycarbonate resins offers the benefits of standard polycarbonate with added impact strength and cold-temperature ductility. According to GE Plastics’ Lexan EXL product manager Doug Hamilton, the material is well suited for many trucking applications because of its rigorous durability and impact requirements.

“The performance of Lexan EXL resin is unparalleled in applications that must withstand extreme physical conditions and weathering often adding no extra weight,” said Hamilton.

IdleAire Technologies of Knoxville, Tennessee, is using Lexan EXL resin for a patented, modular service console that enables long-haul truck drivers to switch off their diesel engines and still enjoy heat, air-conditioning, high-speed computer access, TV and telephone connections, 110-volt power and other amenities during rest periods. Traditionally, truck engines had to be idling to power these services.

The service console hangs off flexible air-handling hoses that are connected to a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning system mounted on an overhead truss. The wiring that delivers the communications and entertainment packages along with 110V circuits is routed along the truss and down the hose to the service module. To use the IdleAire system, a driver pulls into a parking space adjacent to a console and switches off the engine. After installing a window adapter, the driver inserts the console into the cab window and locks the round unit in place. The driver then swipes a credit card to activate the services.

Impact resistance was the key in IdleAire’s selection of LEXAN EXL FL300 resin for the console. Jim Hannah, IdleAire’s vice president of product technology, said they repeatedly impacted the units in their research centre to test the material’s durability.

“We knew these consoles would potentially make contact with the trucks if a driver didn’t align properly in the parking space,” said Hannah. “But even though they are coming into contact with 80,000 pound rigs, the FL3000 EXL material virtually eliminates impact damage.”

Other factors in its selection included the material’s ability to withstand extreme weather fluctuations and its resiliency to chemicals such as diesel fuel.

“These consoles are outside in truck-stop locations across the country that see temperatures ranging from minus -30 to 130F. We needed a material that wouldn’t become brittle or warp. When the driver does start his engine again, the units can come into contact with diesel matter so their chemical resistance was also an important consideration,” added Hannah.

IdleAire also needed to minimise weight in the console design because to install a console, a driver has to lift it and push it into a window that is typically six feet off the ground. The console only weighs 23 pounds.

Lexan EXL resin is available in both clear and opaque grades. GE Plastics expects clear Lexan EXL resin to benefit OEMs in several industries including eyewear, water bottles, medical applications, building and construction applications and lighting. Application opportunities for the opaque version vary from mobile phones, PDAs, portable computer housings, and stowaway keyboards to snow scooters, ATM fascias, network boxes, freezer pallets, and even vacuum-formed parts for tractors and lawn mowers.

Lexan EXL resin processes well in most conventional injection moulds and exhibits excellent release properties, which can enable shorter cycle times and improved production cycles.
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