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SPE presents grand award to Smart Roadster for innovative roof module

GE Advanced Materials : 26 November, 2003  (Application Story)
Smart GmbH received the Grand Award for the Lexan SLX film roof module on its new Smart Roadster at the 33rd Annual Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) International Innovation Awards Program held in Livonia, Mich.
Smart GmbH received the Grand Award for the Lexan SLX film roof module on its new Smart Roadster at the 33rd Annual Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) International Innovation Awards Program held in Livonia, Mich in November 2003. In addition, the module earned First Place for Body Exterior Innovation. The SPE Innovation Awards Program is the largest, and most prestigious, engineering awards event of its kind, and is considered to be the auto industry’s premier recognition event.

Challenged to recognize “plastics super heroes that have broken the barriers of automotive plastics innovation,” SPE judges – a blue ribbon panel of automotive and industry experts, journalists, and analysts – selected the “paintless” Lexan SLX film roof module as the “best of the best” from entries in five categories: Body Exterior, Body Interior, Materials, Power Train and Processing Technology.

“This is a great honour for our customer and for us,” said V. Umamaheswaran (UV), global industry manager, GE Plastics Automotive. “The Smart Roadster roof module is a great example of how Lexan SLX film can offer styling differentiation through a very high gloss, wet look, while reducing the weight of the roof system by up to 50%.”

Other features of the Lexan SLX film roof module that were cited by the awards committee include a Class A finish without paint, excellent gloss and colour retention, and chemical and scratch resistance. This film also offers superior thermoforming characteristics. In addition, another high-performance GE thermoplastic - Xenoy PC/PBT resin – is used in the body panels aboard the smart Roadster to help reduce weight, lower cost and increase impact resistance.

“We’re very pleased to be recognised by the SPE for this application,” said John Carrington, global marketing director, GE Plastics Automotive. “As a European vehicle, the Smart Roadster demonstrates our commitment to innovation by offering global customers the most advanced resin and application technology. This ‘self-protecting’ polymer can give automobiles of the future a long lasting, durable and attractive finish, while saving an estimated $300 to 400 million dollars of future investment for OEMs by eliminating the need to paint.”

LEXAN SLX Resin Hard Top
The roof module of the new Smart Roadster consists of a three-layer, co-extruded Lexan SLX film. This weatherable, polymeric film can produce Class A moulded-in-colour surfaces without the need for painting or clear coating. Lexan SLX film can be applied over a variety of thermoplastic and thermoset substrates through an in-mould decoration process. This revolutionary film is the result of ongoing R&D at GE Plastics for a weatherable polymer system designed to eliminate the need for paint shops and painting processes in automotive exterior applications.

Tests conducted by GE show that this hard-surface thermoplastic has the potential to withstand the rigours of both road conditions and car wash systems. When tested over 25,000 kJ/m2 of Xenon arc, a test that is used as an equivalent to over 10 years of Florida exposure, Lexan SLX film retained 95 percent of its gloss. When back-moulded with a PC/PBT resin and subjected to various OEM paint specification tests, Lexan SLX film was found in most cases to perform better or equal to exterior paint systems. Some of the more strikingly positive results were in tests on scratch resistance and resistance to automotive fluids and aggressive agents such as brake fluid and acid rain.

The hard top of the Smart Roadster consists of two halves. Both roof halves weigh only 5 kg respectively and can be removed and stowed in the rear luggage compartment quickly and easily. The hard top is manufactured by ArvinMeritor Light Vehicle Systems in Gifhorn, Germany.

Used originally for Smart City-Coupe and Cabrio cars’ interchangeable body panels, Xenoy PC/PBT resin offers many advantages such as the direct moulding potential that can eliminate several production steps compared with traditional materials. GE Plastics first generation of moulded-in-colour Xenoy PC/PBT resin was developed to support the critical product needs of automotive designers as they continue to explore the benefits of replacing metal with engineering thermoplastics in body panels. In addition to helping to lower vehicle weight and cost, Xenoy PC/PBT resin can open new horizons in styling and functionality when compared to traditional materials. This resin has outstanding durability, high heat stability over a wide temperature range (-20 to 80C) and excellent chemical resistance to most automotive fuels. The sporty body panels of the Smart car demonstrate the excellent moulded-in-colour capability and aesthetics of high performance Xenoy PC/PBT resin.

GE Plastics currently offers Xenoy resin in a broad range of in-mould colours, all distinguished by their unique brightness and depth of colour. The technology is now available for customers in the automotive and outdoor vehicle applications.

The company Smart employees a total of 2,000 people in Böblingen, Germany and Hambach, France. Smart GmbH is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler Chrysler AG. Information and experience transfers within the innovative group ensure the very best possible solutions. For example, the Smart cdi has the world's most compact unit in common rail diesel technology, built in the Daimler Chrysler engine factory in Berlin. Apart from the innovative strength of a young company, this link also guarantees the consistency in terms of product quality and safety, which you would expect of the inventor of the automobile.
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