Olympics showcase for launch of new hard-coating materials

Paul Boughton

A month before the recent 20th winter Olympics started in TurinItalyGE unveiled a themed monument dedicated to the residents and visitors to the city for the games.

Based in the Piazza Solferino in heart of Torinothe monument was designed by Richi Ferrero and Carmelo Giammello to resemble an ice-covered mountain with vertical rock formations and a central spire.

Named Il Dente del Giganteor the Giant’s Toothin honour of the famous 4014-metre mountain peak along the border of Italy and Francethe structure is eight metres high and is constructed with 550m2 of GE’s Lexan Margard thermoplastic and GE lights (Fig.1).

Lexan Margard sheet is approximately half the weight of comparative glass productswhich also features GE’s hard-coating technology on both sides delivering high level protection against abrasioncleaning fluidspaintsand adhesives and allows frequent cleaning or removal of graffiti without causing damage.

According to the companyits durability and weatherability protects against abrasiveschemicalsimpact over a wide temperature range (-40°C to 120°C) – and it also comes with a 10-year limited written warranty against breakage.

As part of the exhibitGE employees were able to send messages via the Internet during the games that were displayed on a digital messaging system at the base of the structurewhich emitted coloured lights and sounds periodically.

Ferdinando Beccalli-Falcopresident and ceo of GE International said: “We wanted to give our 300000 employees around the world an opportunity to participate directly in the Games and now they have a real-time way to send their best wishes directly to the centre of Torino for all to see.”

After the Games endedthe monument was moved to another location in Turinwhere it will remain until February 2007.

Meanwhile Eastman Chemical Company’s DuraStar copolyester was used to manufacture seats for the Palasport Olimpico stadium in Turin The stadium was host to the ice hockey competition and can seat up to 12000 spectators.

Two types of seat are used in the stadiumone moulded as a single piece and other moulded in two pieces as a seat and adjustable backrest. Six thousand of the latter are used so that the seats can be folded when not in use.

The designer of the stadium required a material with absolute clarity and brilliance in order to represent the ice on which the hockey is played (Fig.2). The material also had to have the ability to withstand impact and fatigue caused by intensive audience use.

As well as meeting these demandsEastman says that its copolymer also has excellent flammability ratings and chemical resistance to detergentsoilsand cosmetics as well as resistance to the influence of water on the long-term aesthetics and mechanical strength.

“By meeting the key requirements of safetymechanical strengthstress-cracking resistance and absolute clearnessDuraStar copolyester exceeded all of our customer’s expectations” said Andrea Caligianasales and market development representative for Southern Europe at Eastman. “Although it is a fairly new material for injection moulding applicationsEastman was able to provide both technical and commercial support to the customer.”

The production and installation were carried out by the Italian company La Metaltecnica srl F lli Venellibased in Como. The company managed to complete the project in only six months. The entire process involved not only the search for the most effective materialbut also product developmentprototypingmoulds completion and testingand the final production and installation of the seats.

The Eastman material was chosen after undergoing a range of material testspassing all tests for mechanical strength as prescribed by European standards. In addition it met all flammability requirementsrated a Class1 material as established by the Italian fire regulations according to UNI9174. This property is inherent to the materialmaking the addition of flame-retardant agents unnecessary.

Better bobsleighs

The bobsleighs used by the Dutch Olympic team in Turin contained special DSM vibration dampers to make them more stable. This reduces the risk of steering errors and means that better times can be achieved. The vibration dampers reduce the number of vibrations in the bobsleigh runners to 40percent compared with the dampers traditionally used for bobsleighs.

An important factor in achieving the fastest time in bobsleighing is the stability of the bobsleigh on the track. This depends on the input of the bobsleighers and on the dynamic properties of the bobsleigh. The sleigh rests on runners that are cushioned by vibration damperswhich improve handling. These dampers were traditionally made from rubberand the damping effect was therefore heavily dependent on the outside temperature: the lower the temperaturethe colder and harder the rubber and the less effective the damping.

In collaboration with TNODSM has now developed vibration dampers that provide a constant level of damping at different temperatures. This leads to a 40percent reduction in vibrationsso that the sleigh sits more firmly on the track. In addition the bobsleighers no longer have to keep adapting the material to the outside temperature.

Ilse Broedersone of the pilots of the Dutch bobsleigh teamswas highly satisfied with this new innovation for the bobsleigh: “We have tested the vibration dampers extensively. It’s nice to know that our impression that the DSM dampers were reducing the amount of vibration in the sleigh has now been confirmed by scientific measurements."

The innovative vibration dampers are made from the high performance material Arnitela thermoplastic elastomer of DSM Engineering Plastics. A major advantage of Arnitel is that its properties remain constant over a wide range of temperatures – in this case from -30 to 10°C.

On behalf of DSMthe vibration dampers were extensively tested at the end of December 2005 by TNO and the Dutch bobsleigh teams at the bobsleigh run in AltenbergGermany. With the aid of acceleration recorders and a data recordertwo kinds of Arnitel products were compared in various variants with the standard rubber material.

The tests revealed that the Arnitel B damper with four teeth was the most effective for the twoman bobsleigh. In the case of the four-man bobsleighwhere the vibration dampers have to bear a greater weightthe Arnitel B damper without teeth achieved the best results.