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Trend towards large formats continues

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 15 June, 2004  (Company News)
Anyone strolling through the aisles of this year
Anyone who wants to see how far polymer materials have developed over the last few decades, only needs to take a look at polyurethane applications technology. “Even just 20–30 years ago, the advantage of polyurethane technology was its capability that a product could be introduced into the market quickly and cost-effectively, which was molded with a synthetic resin mold from an original model made by a skilled craftsman,” says Ulf-Peter Pestel, Managing Director of Pestel PUR-Kunststofftechnik GmbH in Chemnitz, Germany.

Today, the situation is quite different. Polyurethane integral skin foams, such as Baydur® 110 produced by Bayer MaterialScience AG in Leverkusen, have become all-around materials which are constantly opening up new areas of application even in medium-sized production runs thanks to the scope for design, mechanical robustness, simple functional integration and high level of cost-effectiveness that they offer. Polyurethane moldings are also pushing the envelope when it comes to dimensions. “As the parts become heavier and more complex and larger in size, the microcellular polyurethane RIM method becomes more cost-effective,” says Pestel.

There is a whole range of products to prove this that statement. One current example, a product which is technically demanding in nature, is the tailgate of the Jaguar field chopper produced by Claas Selbstfahrende Erntemaschinen GmbH in Harsewinkel, Germany. The tailgate is made at Pestel PUR-Kunststofftechnik in a single shot using the flame-retardant, microcellular polyurethane Baydur® 110 from the polyurethane market leader, Bayer MaterialScience AG. The molding, which weighs 33 kilograms, has overall dimensions of 2.1 x 1.4 meters with a considerable number of undercuts and ribs. A design as complex as this would not have been possible using other technologies for the manufacture of large-format moldings.

“It is becoming increasingly important to combine as many functions and modules as possible in a single molding to ensure maximum cost-effectiveness of production. Here, polyurethanes’ freedom of design really comes into its own: they make it possible to produce structures in a single shot without costly secondary finishing, even if these are complex with undercuts, ribs and big differences in wall thickness,” says Pestel. The low viscosity of Baydur® 110 mixture ensures that even remote corners of the mold are filled, even at pressures as low as around 10 bar. Metal connectors and other inserts can be molded in at the same time.

In addition to this, there are the economic advantages related to cost-effective aluminum molds. To be able to produce the complex geometry of the field chopper’s tailgate from polyurethane, the polyurethane specialists in Chemnitz, who besides having their own paint shop also have a facility for mold making with highly experienced employees, used sophisticated molds with multiple splits or split-ejector combinations whose aluminum design makes them around 30 percent cheaper than the equivalent steel versions. “The advantages of polyurethanes over conventional materials such as glass fiber-reinforced plastics and sheet molding compounds become particularly apparent when producing large-format moldings with a highly structured inner surface.”

For Ulf-Peter Pestel, this is no time to rest on his laurels despite all that has been achieved. At the moment, the company is optimizing mold production, painting and assembly to further strengthen its reputation as an expert system supplier. Currently, it operates machines which allow the production of polyurethane components with dimensions of up to 2.50 x 2.00 meters and weighing 80 kilograms.
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