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Thermoplastics Testing Centre Expands Portfolio of Services for the Automotive Industry

11 March 2005

The Thermoplastics Testing Center (TTC) of Bayer MaterialScience AG, has extended its portfolio of services for the automotive industry to include several key features.

""Our objective is to help customers to reduce the time-to-market in the product and application development process while satisfying the strictest requirements in terms of quality and safety,"" says Dr. Michael Schmidt, Head of Testing Technology & New Testing Methods at the TTC.

Bayer believe that the behaviour of material at high speeds is of great importance when simulating the crash behaviour of plastic components such as bumpers and headlamp lenses. The TTC now has new servohydraulic high-speed tensile testing equipment that can be used to measure material properties at the sort of speeds typically encountered in crashes, e.g. up to 20 metres a second. On the basis of the data obtained, customers can create input decks for popular crash simulation programs such as LS-Dyna or PAM-Crash. The input decks can be used to precisely predict failure of plastics in a crash.

One innovation developed in-house at the TTC is a new, practical method for testing the scratch resistance of plastic components. ""We developed this patented process specifically for automotive construction. It can be used to test applications such as windshields and headlight lenses or coated bumpers which have to satisfy very strict requirements in terms of scratch resistance,"" says Schmidt. The conditions to which an automobile is exposed in the airstream when travelling at speeds of up to 150 kilometres an hour are reproduced in a realistic manner for the analysis of scratch resistance.

Furthermore, TTC's processing specialists have the expertise required to produce plastic panels of high optical quality. These panels are manufactured and individually packed in a fully automated process. They are therefore particularly suitable for subsequent coating trials. Customers' calls for textured surfaces can also be satisfied using the existing injection moulds by employing interchangeable inserts.

In order to assess the resistance of thermoplastic materials and components to key climatic factors such as radiation, heat, humidity and rain, the TTC has expanded its testing process for artificial weathering of automotive interior and exterior components. ""We can perform tests using both the conventional international standards and the specifications of the key automobile manufacturers,"" says Schmidt.

The TTC is one of only a few testing centres in the world to boast an innovative device for local measurement of the thermophysical properties of materials, such as thermal conductivity. ""This measuring process, which does not involve any contact with or destruction of components, enables us, for example, to locally determine the thermal conductivity of an anisotropic plastic component in order to optimize heat dissipation. This is particularly important for the housings of electrical and electronic components,"" adds Schmidt.

Unique software tool based on neuronal networks to predict the design and processing properties

One particularly useful feature in ensuring a short and cost-effective development process for components is a new software tool which is unique on the market and is based on neuronal networks. It enables the user to predict the design and processing properties of mouldings. This tool was developed in the Polycarbonates Business Unit of Bayer MaterialScience by an interdisciplinary team made up of material scientists, physicists, mathematicians and chemists. It can be used to calculate the processing and design properties of thermoplastics as a function of the process parameters, moulding thickness and applied load type over a temperature window from -40 °C up to the softening point of the plastic. Effects resulting from the manufacture of the moulding such as weld lines or the anisotropy of mechanical properties are also taken into consideration. The software tool can also determine the deformation behaviour of a moulding or its shrinkage, the gate open times and the process times during production. The Thermoplastics Testing Center is able to measure all design and processing properties.

Image details: Servohydraulic high-speed tensile testing of suitable test pieces can be used to measure the properties of a material at the speeds typically encountered in crashes: up to 20 meters a second.






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