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Transportation industry leaders selecting Ultem PEI sheet

GE Advanced Materials : 24 August, 2004  (Technical Article)
GE Advanced Materials plans further expansion of PEI-based sheet line for aircraft, rail interiors with new low-gloss, ultra-light products.
Boeing and Siemens are among a growing number of airline and rail OEMs selecting GE Advanced Materials’ Ultem sheet for demanding interior applications due to its flame, smoke, and toxicity compliance and the tremendous strength, excellent aesthetics, and other benefits for which this family of GE materials is known. Two grades in particular are making major inroads into this industry segment. They include Ultem 1668A sheet, a material developed for use in interior aircraft components, and Ultem R16SG29 sheet, a new product just introduced in 2003 as the first Ultem sheet material designed for rail interior applications.

Boeing has selected Ultem 1668A sheet for use in its C17 jetliner. Thermoformed by Texstars, Inc., Ultem 1668A sheet forms the plane’s entire cockpit. Boeing chose the material primarily for its flame, smoke, and toxicity performance. Another major consideration in Boeing’s selection of the material was its ability to withstand excessive heat build-up from sunlight shining on the cockpit walls. With a heat deflection temperature (HDT) of 200C, Ultem 1668A sheet can withstand these temperature demands, while competitive materials can warp.

Adder, a leading aircraft interiors supplier, uses Ultem 1668A sheet for its new, movable aircraft cabin divider in a Scandanavian Airbus A320 jet. Use of the GE material in this application illustrates its excellent mouldability, toughness, and enhanced aesthetics over many traditional materials. The sheet is formed into a single beam, which slides onto luggage bins and integrated rails to cover the entire width of the Airbus cabin interior. In addition to the required code compliance for such applications, Ultem 1668A sheet also gives this highly structural component great stiffness and strength in combination with low weight.

Ultem R16SG29 sheet forms the entire interior of train cars – from floor to ceiling – on a new line of passenger trains from Siemens. The first Siemens train sporting the Ultem R16SG29 sheet interior was unveiled this year in Houston as part of the city’s new Metro light rail system. Formed in a thickness of 3mm, the material not only meets Siemens’ demand for exceptional cleanability, durability, and vandal resistance, but also meets the required flame, smoke, and toxicity requirements of the rail industry.

“What we are seeing is rapid, global penetration and growth of Ultem sheet driven largely by global OEMs striving to quickly transition to fully compliant, highly engineered materials,” said Joe Henderson, product manager, Opaque Sheet, GE Advanced Materials. “They are looking to us because our Ultem sheet technology addresses a full range of customer needs. Ultem 1668A sheet, for example, was almost exclusively a US product; now it’s in several European applications and growing. The same is true of our new Ultem R16SG29 sheet that was only introduced in 2003 and, in roughly one year’s time, is on its way to becoming a very popular rail industry choice.”

GE Advanced Materials’ Ultem sheet products are based on the company’s Ultem resin, a tough amorphous polyetherimide (PEI) thermoplastic that is already widely used in most major aircraft interiors. Ultem 1668A sheet is an inherently flame-resistant material with low smoke emission. It meets commercial aircraft interior requirements, including OSU heat-release rate below 65/65, FAA smoke and flammability testing and complies with toxicity standards BSS7239 and ABD0031.

Ultem 1668A sheet also offers aircraft OEMs exceptional impact and heat resistance, modulus, and chemical resistance in combination with light weight, exceptional strength, and good surface aesthetics. The product can be thermoformed, pressure formed, twin-sheet formed, or used in flat or cold-formed applications. Paintable and/or available from GE in a range of colours, Ultem 1668A sheet is finding use in an array of interior aircraft applications, such as passenger service units, seating and flight deck components, galleys, stow bins, and sidewalls.

Use of Ultem R16SG29 sheet is growing in train window masks, cladding, walls and seating, and other interior parts due to its design flexibility in three-dimensional shapes; outstanding mechanical properties; and flame, smoke, and toxicity capabilities. Especially important for this sector is this product’s excellent cleanability and chemical resistance, meets US FRA 49 CFR Part 238 flammability and smoke emissions standards for train passenger cars and locomotive cabs and complies with toxicity standard Bombardier SMP 800C. It also meets Germany’s DIN5510, Part 2 (S4/SR2/ST2 rating) and is compliant with French NF P 92-501/5 and NF F 16-101 (M1,F1 rating). Like other GE Ultem sheet products, Ultem R16SG29 sheet offers proven impact resistance in combination with excellent strength-to-weight performance and surface appearance. It can also be thermoformed, pressure formed, twin-sheet formed, or used in flat or cold-formed applications.

Because all of GE’s Ultem sheet products offer light weight in combination with excellent toxicity performance, they are good candidates to replace polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in many interior applications. Products comprising this family of GE materials also address growing eco-label application concerns, helping customers meet such stringent industry requirements as TCO99, Blue Angel, White Swan, or EU, while meeting the fire safety criteria of Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL).

“Ultem sheet is a very successful product line for GE Advanced Materials,” Henderson said. “Not only does it give interiors applications cutting-edge performance and great looks, but it also addresses safety concerns and eco-label demand. High industry acceptance of this material is one reason why our new product development efforts have been in overdrive for some time; next-generation products are already in the pipeline.”

Illustrating this point, Henderson cites a new low-gloss product – Ultem 1668L low-gloss sheet – spawned by Ultem 1668A sheet that is designed to address growing aircraft industry demand for low-gloss matte finishes on aircraft seating and other interior parts. Another product the company plans to launch is an Azdel Superlite Ultem resin blend, a thermoformable, lightweight composite sheet, that exhibits excellent flame, smoke, toxicity, and heat-release performance in large semi-structural panels for aircraft, trains, and other transportation segments.
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