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Silicones and silanes: bumper to bumper solutions for automotive industry challenges

GE Advanced Materials : 01 July, 2004  (Technical Article)
Offering bumper-to-bumper engineering thermoplastics materials as well as silicones and silanes, GE Advanced Materials is committed to addressing the emerging needs of major OEMs and tiers with technologies that enhance vehicle aesthetics, efficiency and performance.
From plastics solutions for body panels and glazing to under-the-hood, components, structures and lighting, GE Advanced Materials provides industry leading application development and technical support to bring new concepts to market while attempting to drive cost out. In the silicones and silanes segments, GE Advanced Materials offers best-in-class elastomers, coatings, adhesives, sealants, urethane additives and room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) products for longer lasting, higher performance.

“We have a truly global automotive organisation — with manufacturing and sales sites in 79 locations across 21 countries — that is dedicated exclusively to serving this important industry,” said GE Advanced Materials Automotive Vice President, André Horbach. “This allows us to concentrate our R&D and commercial resources exclusively on developing solutions that address industry’s emerging design and technical needs and to better serve our global OEM partners. Our goal is to help OEMs build technically advanced vehicles for an industry that serves the world’s most demanding consumers.”

GE Advanced Materials has been serving the automotive industry for more than 50 years. Moreover, the company sees technology innovation as its key differentiator and is committed to developing proprietary technology and adding value through concept design and application development. This commitment is backed by $2.6 billion in annual spending that GE invests in research and development at its global research centres. Respected by the scientific and consumer communities alike, GE Global Research Centers are strategically located in the USA, China, India and Europe and are staffed by more than 2500 world-class scientists and engineers. With the official ribbon cutting on June 28, 2004, GE officially opened a new $52 million Global Technology Centre in Munich-Garching, Germany, bringing even more world-class developments to the heart of Europe.

“In this fiercely competitive market, manufacturers are subject to increased external pressures from safety and environmental legislation, as well as consumer demands for additional features and style changes,” Horbach added, citing the pressures that automakers face from the ever-present - and absolute need - for cost reduction. “GE Advanced Materials has been very successful in using our technology to help customers address these issues. Now, by leveraging the global strength of our dedicated automotive organization, we can better focus our technical resources on developing more innovative, higher value application solutions all over the vehicle.”

No Paint Solutions, Body Panels
For Body Panels, GE Advanced Materials is helping drive cost out by eliminating the need for secondary paint operations with “no-paint” solutions. Advanced Lexan SLX film provides automakers with a ‘paint-free’ option that can deliver a Class A surface finish with deep gloss consumer appeal. Furthermore, the film has the ability to withstand prolonged exposure to UV rays without fading, and it offers greater scratch and chemical resistance when compared to similar films. The automotive public quickly took note of the exciting technology behind the application. The Lexan SLX film roof module on the Smart Roadster recently won the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Grand Prize for Innovation.

For automakers, Lexan SLX film can eliminate new paint line investment and emissions. In addition - by replacing metal panels – Lexan SLX film can reduce vehicle weight by up to 40 to 50 percent. The film is applicable to many exterior body panels, matches well to a variety of substrates, and can be processed using large in-mould decoration techniques. And, for automotive manufacturers who prefer painted body panels, GE Advanced Materials leads the way with painted engineering thermoplastic body panels aboard 19 vehicle platforms produced by nine automakers worldwide. In fact, GE has more engineering thermoplastic body panels on the road than any other resin supplier.

GE Advanced Materials products allow customised painting options through all three traditional paint methods. Off-Line solutions include paintable – or moulded-in-colour – Xenoy resin panels. On-line and in-line painted body panels can also be manufactured from non-conductive Noryl GTX resins, or from conductive grades that eliminate the need for primers.

Weight reduction is another critical component of the GE Advanced Materials strategy and plastic Body Panels offer an ideal solution. For example, fenders moulded using Noryl GTX or Xenoy resins can help reduce weight by up to 40 percent compared with steel. These panels are dent, ding and corrosion resistant, offer high heat and chemical resistance, and can be moulded into complex shapes that are often difficult to achieve using metal materials.

Wrap-around glazing takes design to a new level, giving drivers and passengers a better all round view, while offering outstanding impact resistance. GE Advanced Materials turned imagination into reality with Lexan resin glazing that can provide panoramic roof systems with integrated features in complex shapes that glass materials cannot deliver. Lexan resin glazing offers weight savings of up to 50 percent versus glass and metal systems, while helping to lower the centre of gravity for greater stability.

Imagine the benefit of Under-the-Hood components that can reduce cost, weight, integrate parts and maintain high dimensional stability versus metal. Electronic throttle bodies moulded from high-heat GE Advanced Materials’ Ultem resins can lower system cost and reduce parts by up to 30 percent, while eliminating machining and lowering weight by up to 50 percent when compared to traditional metal materials. For applications from air intake systems to engine covers, GE Advanced Materials offers a broad portfolio of engineering resins and composites designed to withstand high-heat and harsh chemical environments.

In addition to plastics applications, GE Advanced Materials also offers several silicone solutions uniquely suited for Under-The-Hood applications. Whether an automotive designer seeks throttle body valves, air intake systems, connectors or other sealing components in automotive liquid silicone rubber can help meet liquid silicone rubber can help meet the need for optimum and LIM Silopren LSR processability and full automation (two component injection moulding and hard-soft combinations) with short cycle times.

High Performance Components
When automotive manufacturers imagined a strong, lightweight running board made of composite materials, GE Advanced Materials responded. As a result, the first moulded-in-colour, injection-moulded, composite running board can be experienced on the 2004 Dodge Durango. Made of Verton PDX composite, the stylish running board is about half the weight of conventional steel systems.

From bumper to bumper, GE Advanced Materials offers a wide variety of high performance engineering thermoplastics and composites for Exterior and Interior component applications. Just one example, Geloy XTW resin, is a game-changing material that delivers three to five times better colour and gloss retention than conventional ASAs, and comes in a spectrum of colours. More than additives, this revolutionary resin uses new polymer building blocks to dramatically improve weatherability in exterior applications. While moulded-in colour eliminates paint and hard coat, automakers can also achieve blacks that are deeper and darker, whites that are brighter and cleaner, along with an excellent depth of image that will be noticed and appreciated by auto consumers.

The experience of GE Advanced Materials in Structures is broad, encompassing instrument panels, headliners and energy absorption systems that include injection-moulded FMVSS and Pedestrian Impact designs. Integrated front-end modules (FEMs) are another priority, as GE Advanced Materials supports the development of lightweight all-plastic FEMs, along with advanced steel and plastics systems such as HydroPlast Structures and materials for use in integrated airbag designs.

Imagine a seamless air bag system that meets the needs of styling and performs in extreme temperatures. GE Advanced Materials did, with a seamless integrated airbag door instrument panel system made with Lexan EXL resin, a product in GE’s new X-GEN product family. This innovative design enables the seamless integration of the air bag door into the instrument panel, for outstanding aesthetics, while helping to facilitate robust air bag deployment without fragmentation, even at –40C.

GE Advanced Materials designers must also respond to strict legislation requirements in Europe and Japan that mandate highly efficient impact performance for potentially reduced damage to the lower leg in the event of a pedestrian accident. Energy Absorber Systems made with Xenoy resin can help do this by allowing tier suppliers to provide a pedestrian protection system that is functional, lightweight and stylish, as it permits less pronounced bumper offsets for cleaner vehicle lines.

GE HydroPlast Structures is a metal/plastic hybrid solution that can combine the strength of steel with the low mass of plastics, all in a single cost-effective moulding process. Because of its substantial savings potential, GE Advanced Materials focused this innovation on large front-end structures to help lower weight and investment while reducing mass and parts integration. HydroPlast Structures and SmartLok Connections permit hydro-formed steel to be combined with engineering thermoplastic structures in a single moulding process. This system allows the integration of separate steel parts into a single integrated unit, which was demonstrated in a retrofit bolster HydroPlast Structure of Verton MFX composite. The HydroPlast Structure integrates the radiator, hood latch, washer bottle, headlamps, grille and fascia, while managing both vehicle level input and local mechanical loads.

Imagine automotive lighting systems of advanced resins that are tough, stylish and welcome the high heat of projector and fog lamps. GE Advanced Materials did, and provided Ultem XH6050 resin, an advanced material that GE believes is the highest heat, highest modulus amorphous resin available. By offering heat resistance to 225C, Ultem XH6050 expands heat capability to include fog lamp and projector lamp reflectors. The resin is characterized by exceptional dimensional stability, strength and durability. In addition, it is flame retardant, 100 percent recyclable using standard equipment, and offers cost savings versus lacquered thermosets and metals.

Millions of vehicles worldwide already rely on Lexan resin to provide high impact resistance and clarity in headlight lenses and bezels. Now, a new high heat polycarbonate grade, Lexan 4401R resin, provides a step improvement in the balance of flow and heat resistance currently available with alternative resins. With improved heat stability to 148C, Lexan 4401R resin can optimise flow and heat for bezels that require direct metallisation and high surface quality, while permitting faster cycle times and higher productivity.

Many modern automobile designs include more than 50 potential applications for silicone and silane products. On the power train, silicone elastomers, adhesives and coatings perform in windshields, engine sealing, transmission, fuel, electronic and coolant systems. On the exterior and chassis, silicone coatings offer scratch resistance and weather protection to plastic body panels, headlamps and trim. Silicones are also used in the fluid systems. And silicone-based polishes keep the cars looking good. GE Advanced Materials focuses on five major silicones/silanes application segments: elastomers, coatings, adhesives and sealants, urethane additives and room temperature vulcanizing (RTV) products.

Silanes help protect the coating on cars and can also help enhance the heat resistance and longevity of rubber belts and hoses. One major application for GE silanes is silica tires. Silica tires, since their introduction in the mid 1990's, have improved average fuel economy by about 0.5 miles per gallon or more for the majority of cars on which they are used.

GE Advanced Materials-Silicones offers urethane additives that help improve the quality, safety and comfort of urethane applications in car seating and headliners, and we are currently introducing new additives that greatly reduce silicone emissions into the car’s interior.

Imagine a material technology that offers outstanding thermal cycling performance at both high and low temperatures. Combine these attributes with oil, fluid and synthetic fuel performance, balanced fluid and solvent resistance and enhanced electrical conductivity; and you have GE Advanced Materials’ Elastomer technologies: Liquid Injection Molding (LSR) elastomers and High Consistency Elastomers (HCE for extrusion and moulding).

GE Advanced Materials’ elastomers can be moulded into many automotive parts, including compressive gaskets, seals, o-rings, grommets, diaphragms, ignition cables and connectors. These elastomers offer enhanced compression set performance, self-bonding capability and self-lubricating performance when compared with competitive materials.

GE Advanced Materials’ recent technology breakthroughs in elastomers are evident in Liquid Fluorosilicone FSL7641 and FSL7651 grades. In connectors, FSL7586/40 is a low modulus, high bleed elastomer with improved resistance to lubricants and fuels. For engine oil gasketing, the oil resistant LSR 21XX elastomer series, as well as the low comp set LSR 26X1 elastomer series offer outstanding alternatives to traditional elatomers. In two-component/overmoulding applications, LSR 27XX , LIM 8070 and LIM 9040 elastomers offer beneficial automotive properties.

GE Advanced Materials innovation continues with outstanding coatings materials. With GE Advanced Materials, automotive manufacturers can find a single source for many coatings needs. Whether needed for plastic body panel exterior hard coatings, headlamps, trim, airbag coatings or electronic coatings for automotive system components, GE Advanced Materials can help provide the correct materials solution for even the most complicated automotive design challenge.

For exterior applications, GE Advanced Materials coatings products offer increased scratch, UV and weather resistance when compared to similar materials in the marketplace. Airbag coatings solutions from GE Advanced Materials offer enhanced thermal management properties, flexibility, compressibility and rocket fuel resistance.

Taking innovation even further, GE Advanced Materials offers competitive electronic coatings with solventless capability, thermal management properties, vibration damping, as well as enhanced materials protection against moisture, dirt and other environmental contaminants.

Exciting new products in the coatings category include the AS4700 silicone hardcoating system, GE Advanced Materials newest hardcoating technology and UV resistant UVHC3000 silicone hardcoat.

RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) Products
Through adhesives, sealants and encapsulants, GE Advance Materials’ imagination is evident. Room Temperature Vulcanizing (RTV) products offer primerless adhesion, thermal management, vibration damping and enhanced environment contaminant protection for exterior bonding applications, headlamp assembly, gaskets, electronics and silicone airbag coating.

GE Advanced Materials offer unparalleled reliability and long-term performance in demanding automotive applications. Primary uses include adhering parts together; sealing out moisture, environmental contaminants and UV rays; insulating against mechanical stress and vibration; and protecting against the effects of thermal cycling. Conformal coating of electronic circuit boards and gel encapsulation (or potting) of control and sensor modules are two modes of applications where RTVs protect sensitive circuitry designed into modern automobiles.

Silicones have also long been used in formed-in-place gasketing (FIPG) applications to seal out moisture from an array of automotive components. GE Advanced Materials’ ECC4865 conformal coating offers key benefits that set it apart from similar industry products. In addition, GE Advanced Materials offers a full line of gels and encapsulants, covering a wide range of cure, thixotropy, and modulus characteristics in both one and two-part chemistries. One particular gel series features extremely low volatility (outgassing), with the LVG342 flagship product in this line. The newly introduced TSE3664 offers flame retardancy with extremely fast room temperature cure.

GE Advanced Materials has a dedicated global Automotive organization with 79 sites in 21 countries to provide industry-leading application development, technical support and customer service to its automotive customers.
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