Legislation continues to drive novel polymer development

Paul Boughton

Tyres, automobile parts, white goods and electronics are all being subject to tougher European legislation. And, says Sean Ottewell, this is opening up many new markets for polymer manufacturers

With the recent decision of the European Parliament setting carbon dioxide emission performance standards for new passenger cars in the form of regulation (EC)No443/2009, weight reduction promises to become even more imperative for the automotive industry.

To help automakers and suppliers achieve greater weight reduction, Milliken Chemical is introducing Hyperform HPR-803 high performance reinforcing agent for polyolefins. The new agent reduces weight by up to 15 per cent when compared with traditional mineral-filled systems while delivering an outstanding balance of stiffness and impact strength (Fig.1). Further, the new Milliken agent offers comparable surface finish to talc-filled compounds that cannot be achieved with chopped glass fibre reinforcement. The company's continuing innovation is enabling customers to improve the appearance, performance, and productivity of their products, and expand potential polyolefin application areas.

The European Union will require automakers to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the coming years, with a target of 95g/km by 2020. Automakers will have to pay penalty payments if they don't meet the new requirements. To a large extent, lighter cars result in cleaner cars. Plastics such as polyolefins are already playing an important role in reducing vehicle weight.

"Polypropylene is a versatile material that is increasingly selected for interior and exterior automotive parts - in fact, about 50-70kg of polypropylene (PP) are used per vehicle, on average, depending on where you are in the world," said Wouter Reyntjens, business development manager, Milliken Chemical. "However, the traditional reinforcements used with PP either add undesirable weight or provide an unsatisfactory appearance."

Reyntjens continues, "The property space targeted by reinforcing agents is a natural technology extension for Milliken, and Hyperform HPR-803 complements our existing offering to polyolefin formulators and converters. With its unique combination of attributes, we believe customers will find Hyperform HPR-803 the best polyolefin reinforcement for today's most demanding applications."

Complementing Milliken's other Hyperform additives, including the company's Hyperform hyper-nucleating agent, the new reinforcing agent was developed to meet the needs of the automotive and appliance industries. Advantages of using Hyperform HPR-803 include: replacing high loadings of heavy mineral fillers, such as talc, with lower loadings for comparable performance. This can reduce the weight of polyolefin parts by up to 15 per cent; offering improved stiffness v talc and other minerals at higher loadings; providing high heat deflection temperatures exceeding high levels of talc; and offering an improved surface finish that surpasses chopped glass fibre.

By utilising Hyperform HPR-803 reinforcement as a replacement for chopped glass fibre, customers can expand applications for PP and other polyolefins beyond current 'hidden' structural automotive and appliance parts to encompass highly visible components such as bumpers and door panels. And by replacing talc and other mineral reinforcements with the new Milliken technology, customers can achieve significant lightweighting of parts while maintaining or exceeding existing performance properties.

Another company being driven by European legislation is Rhodia. In July, the European Parliament and the European Council signed a regulation (CE661/2009) which mandates lower limits for rolling resistance as well as other key parameters such as wet grip performance. A regulation draft (COM2009/348) on the energy-performance labelling of tyres was also adopted by the Parliament in April, addressing fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide emission issues in particular. Such labelling should come into force from November 2012.

Rhodia has responded to new EU regulations promoting the development of more energy efficient tyres with Zeosil Premium, a new generation of high-surface silica that adds a further 10 per cent reduction in rolling resistance (Fig.2). Invented in the 1990s by Rhodia, high performance silica is a key-ingredient in energy-efficient tyres. Previous generations of silica already reduced rolling resistance by 25 per cent, resulting in an estimated 5 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by vehicles.

White goods and notebooks

Turkish company Vestel White Goods has chosen SABIC Innovative Plastics' flame-retardant (FR) Noryl NH6020 resin - which complies with the new, tougher requirements of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60355 standard for unattended appliances - to ensure its washing machines are competitive in the global arena.

Vestel, one of Turkey's leading appliance manufacturers, replaced a halogenated FR polyamide with Noryl NH6020 resin for printed circuit board holders to meet the new IEC requirements without the use of chlorinated or brominated FR additives. Further, using this innovative material enables Vestel to improve part quality and reduce scrap to lower system costs.

By proactively securing IEC certification and ensuring flame retardance without halogens, SABIC Innovative Plastics says it helps customers like Vestel gain a competitive edge and the opportunity to expand into new markets.

When the IEC tightened its 60355 standard and included the demanding glow wire ignition (GWIT) test for flammability, Vestel sought a new compliant material to replace the existing polyamide in use. SABIC Innovative Plastics had already developed an array of flame-retardant materials that achieved IEC 60355 certification through the German testing organization Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik (VDE). Because the materials have already passed compliance tests meeting the new IEC standards, manufacturers do not have to spend time and resources on additional testing of plastic parts.

For Vestel, IEC compliance was only one of a number of shortfalls. Further, as part of its environmental stewardship focus and to meet global eco regulations, Vestel wanted flame retardance without the use of chlorinated or brominated additives. Noryl NH6020 resin offers non-halogenated flame retardance as well as a balance of properties to address Vestel's concerns.

By replacing its previous material with Noryl NH6020 resin in new washing machine models, Vestel has reduced rejects and part failures to practically zero, reducing system costs and ensuring consistent high quality of the PCB holders. Compliance with environmental regulations, including the EU Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, allows the company to market its washers around the world.