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Plastic fantastic on the piste

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 24 March, 2005  (Company News)
A composite design offers exceptional opportunities for manufacturing stable, lightweight snowboards. A strong material for the core, e.g. conventional wood or the Baydur
Every year as summer draws to a close, many winter sports fanatics are eagerly anticipating the fun that lies ahead. In recent years, snowboarding in particular has seen a dramatic rise in popularity. It's no wonder really, given that large snowboards let you do all manner of impressive turns and jumps in addition to simply sliding down the slope. Practice long enough and you'll even be able to tackle some semi-acrobatic spins and inverts. To do all of this and more, winter sports equipment has to combine light weight and flexibility with high stiffness.

Snowboards from Pale Ski&Sport, a leading Austrian manufacturer of ski and leisure-time equipment, are comprised of a robust wood or polyurethane core produced using a sophisticated technique based on Baypreg® polyurethane raw material from Bayer MaterialScience AG.

“The composite design offers outstanding opportunities for manufacturing stable, lightweight snowboards,” says Dr. Marc Schütze, a polyurethanes expert at Bayer MaterialScience. A strong material for the core, e.g. conventional wood or the Baydur® polyurethane system, is covered on both top and underside with a glass fiber mat. Baypreg® polyurethane ensures the necessary cohesion between the core layer and the fiber mat. The liquid two-component system is easy to apply to the glass fiber mats. The composite structure, which comprises the core, impregnated outer layers and decorative films that determine the appearance of the product, is then placed in a pre-heated mold and pressed into the desired shape. The high temperature causes the polyurethane to react within just a few minutes, creating a strong, permanent bond between all the components.

“The glass fiber mats reliably absorb tensile forces, thereby guaranteeing an extremely stiff snowboard,” says Dr. Schütze. “The polyurethane-impregnated fiber mats can be processed at room temperature in 45 minutes. This ensures high flexibility in the production workflow. What's more, there are no risks from solvent vapors as Baypreg® is completely solvent- and styrene-free.” Final curing at 120 °C takes just two to three minutes, although it requires slightly longer if the temperature is lower. The need for time-intensive post-curing of the product is eliminated and it displays its full property profile directly after the polyurethane has cured.

The Baypreg® method facilitates the integration of additional reinforcing elements into the product – they are simply foamed in place. Yet even this method has room for improvement. “We're currently working on replacing the honeycomb core with our Baydur® polyurethane. This will mean that future snowboards could be 100 percent polyurethane,” notes Dr. Schütze.
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