New materials offer speciality solutions

Paul Boughton

From aircraft interiors and cosmetic lotions to outdoor furniture and body armour, the demand for lighter, tougher materials solutions continues to drive demand. Sean Ottewell reports.

On show for the first time at the recent Aircraft Interiors Expo Americas exhibition, SABIC Innovative Plastics has launched what it describes as a new breakthrough technology for semi-structural aircraft interior parts featuring its Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin.

New Ultem composite aerospace board (CAB) sheets, co-developed and manufactured with Crane & Co, a global leader in specialty paper, provide a superior alternative to thermoset aramid fiber-reinforced honeycomb composites.

The Ultem CAB sheets can be quickly thermoformed, offer a broad range of high-performance properties, are recyclable, and offer great potential to be refurbished with a newly developed decorative film layer while still meeting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements to extend useful life. The sheets are currently being trialled by a major airline.

The use of advanced thermoplastics to replace traditional thermosets in aircraft interiors offers multiple benefits, including the potential for recycling. The most noteworthy is system cost reduction. Because aramid honeycomb composites are highly sensitive to moisture and ultraviolet (UV) light, the porous edges of a part must be laboriously filled and sealed by hand, a process that can take up to ten hours. In contrast, Ultem CAB sheet parts can be quickly thermoformed in minutes and need no secondary finishing, thanks to the excellent UV resistance and low moisture absorption properties of Ultem resin. In addition to faster cycle times, Ultem CAB sheet cuts system costs through its ability to be re-skinned while still meeting required flame-smoke-toxicity (FST) properties to lengthen its useful life, an option previously not available to customers with aramid honeycomb composite.

SABIC says that Ultem CAB sheet features the excellent FST performance that Ultem resin is known for. The material exceeds the stringent Ohio State University (OSU) 55/55 standard. Still another benefit is its light weight; Ultem CAB sheet weighs an average 1350g/m2 and can be customised to meet a range of part weight requirements.

Target applications for the new composite include sidewalls, cockpit panels, ceiling panels, door liners and dividers (Fig. 1).

"With Ultem CAB sheet, SABIC Innovative Plastics and Crane have achieved dramatic advantages over traditional honeycomb composites across the board, from slashing cycle time to doubling part life," said Kim Choate, global Ultem product market leader, SABIC Innovative Plastics. "Now, this resin, in the form of an Ultem resin and glass fibre-reinforced composite panel, is again demonstrating its remarkable versatility to be utilised in multiple forms and delivering additional value to the aircraft industry. We're confident that Ultem CAB sheet will become the new gold standard for interior panels."

Meanwhile a Polish producer of cosmetic lotions is the first of a new wave of end-users of high added value products to take advantage of what is described by Milliken as the outstanding optical properties achievable in extrusion-blow moulded polypropylene bottles through the use of its next-generation clarifying agent Millad NX8000 (Fig. 2).

Natural cosmetics company Bielenda, based in Krakow, has just begun marketing a new range of bath oils labelled Afrodyzjak, Ekstaza and Euroforia. They will be sold in various European countries, as well as on other continents. Bielenda wanted to pack the products, intended to stimulate the senses, in bottles that showed off their colours and transparency to best advantage, and which were in keeping with the very high quality image it was trying to promote.

After considering various processing technologies and alternative materials, including PVC and PETG, Bielenda picked extrusion-blow moulded bottles made from an ultra-clear polypropylene containing Milliken's high-performance clarifier Millad NX8000.

The polymer, with its low density and high mechanical properties, lets Bielenda minimise materials usage: polypropylene bottles can weigh around 20 per cent less than PVC versions and as much as ten per cent less than PETG bottles. Additionally, it is fairly easy to process (no need for pre-drying) and there are no issues with equipment corrosion. Extrusion blow moulding is a highly cost-effective process and allows for great freedom of design.

"The level of transparency provided by Millad NX8000 helps our products successfully stand out from others on the shop shelf," says Bielenda's marketing manager Magdalena Kocwin. "We invest significant resources in developing natural cosmetics and the packaging should emphasise the message. We expect this combination of an excellent product in an outstanding package to be particularly attractive to consumers looking for something a little bit special."

Although blow moulding only accounts for a small fraction of all polypropylene consumption, PP does have a significant share in the plastics packaging market overall, and is second behind HDPE in the extrusion blow moulding market.

"Milliken's Millad 3988 clarifying agent for polypropylene has been the industry standard since the early 90s," says Bernard Vermeersch, senior development engineer at Milliken. "Millad NX8000 takes clarification to the next level, and that is obvious when you look at what it achieves in injection moulded and injection-blow moulded containers." Its typical 50 per cent reduction in haze versus the current industry standard makes highly transparent polypropylene a reality, even in relatively thick wall sections.

But until very recently the benefit has been more difficult to see in EBM containers than in other types of containers, because clarity depends to a certain extent on wall surface. Normally, the low pressures and the mould surface finish used in EBM don't yield the best wall surfaces.

"Now, latest resin designs help combat this problem," notes Vermeersch. "New grades containing Millad NX8000 can yield EBM bottles with opticals on a par with PVC. Processors can achieve gloss levels of 120 at an angle of 60 degrees, clarity levels of 95 per cent and haze as low as six per cent. These values have never been achieved before with PP in EBM.

Milliken expects many more applications for Millad NX8000 in extrusion-blow moulded PP containers in the coming months.

For Clariant, Aluminium 2010 in Essen in September was a chance to show case its new advances in aluminium finishes.

The company is a leading producer of dyes and process chemicals for anodised aluminium. Its decades of European production expertise, market experience and innovative product developments combine to provide what it describes as a unique level of high quality service and support for aluminium finishers, with products used in a wide range of applications from automotive to cosmetics, and construction.

Highlights from Clariant's comprehensive ranges of aluminium finishing products that address end-performance, environmental and processing efficiency needs, include:

- Sanodye heavy metal-free dyes meet increasing market and regulatory demands for finishing materials that are considerate to the environment without compromising on dye quality. The Sanodye range covers a broad colour spectrum that extends design potential. The good fade resistance of the dyes ensures effective, long-term performance for indoor-use applications.

- Sanodal dyes offer unsurpassed light and weather fastness which makes them ideal for adding colour to outdoor applications (Fig. 3). The broad range includes shades of black, red, orange, green gold and turquoise to support the latest architectural trends. The dyes can be applied alone or with the well-known Sandalor process in combination with electrolytic dyeing. This results in excellent fastness properties for architectural outdoor applications.

- Anodal process chemicals support the improvement of customers' processes, addressing individuals' need for increased productivity, efficiency and minimised environmental impact. The full range of process chemicals offers benefits such as reduced energy consumption through lower sealing temperatures, and lower cleaning costs through less smut generation on the aluminium. Productivity can be optimised through faster or fewer processing steps.

Finally, DSY Dyneema has confirmed that a Nordic-based manufacturer of body armour has recently stopped using ballistic material imported from China in its vests. The decision reflected the market's strong position on non-acceptance of anything other than first class, genuinely legitimate materials such as Dyneema for these life-critical applications, says the company.

DSM Dyneema disclosed that a customer originally alerted them to the fact that material from China that may have infringed on their intellectual property was being supplied to the market and used in body protection vests. However, before any legal action was required, the company involved approached DSM Dyneema and both parties have since entered into close discussions to resolve and rectify the situation.

"This is an important development for the end-user, our customers, and for DSM Dyneema. It means buyers of ultra-high performance materials like Dyneema, are effectively regulating the supply chain and will not tolerate sub-standard materials for their products and their customers" said Marco Kleuters, area manager life protection EMEA at DSM Dyneema.

"The company, which we cannot name, fully admits to their actions and they are now committed to fixing the situation. They recognise that only legitimate brands and superior materials like Dyneema will help them succeed in the market and we are looking at how we can work together to resolve this. It is encouraging to see how the market behaves in this manner to ensure that only legitimate, quality products are in the supply chain, and we are pleased to see this being settled without taking legal action," Kleuters added.