Use of High Temperature Resistant Plastics in New Applications Increasing

23 September 2005

A new report by Frost and Sullivan details the way in which high temperature resistant plastics are increasingly being used in environments that would have degraded previous generation polymers.

Typical examples of the areas which have seen increased use are motor and gear parts, hot fuel systems and air manifolds of automobiles, industrial machinery products, and aviation and marine engine segments environments. All of which have traditionally used metallic parts as the last generation of polymers would have degraded in such high temperatures.

Earlier this year, Netcomposites issued details of Bosch starting worldwide production of the first throttle device for gasoline engines made from glass fibre reinforced composite material – a first for the company.

While some of these materials are newly produced plastics such as sulfone polymer, others are the latest additions to polymer series developed decades ago.

""One of the toughest applications for plastics in automotive motors is in bearings, which have to be developed to withstand high temperatures, pressures, wear, and chemical aggression, but at lower cost,"" explains Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Michael Valenti. ""For this, companies need to employ a strong chemical engineering presence in their research and development divisions.""

In Japan, Mitsui Chemicals Inc. manufactures AURUM, a recyclable thermoplastic polyamide resin that can be injection moulded to make an array of parts that include bearings and retainers, burn-in-sockets, bushings, gears, seal rings, thrust washers and disks, valves, the trays and carriers used in semiconductors, hard disc manufacturing, and thermal and electric insulators.

Potential end users need to be convinced of the efficacy of these plastics to withstand high temperatures, as well as their chemical and hydrolytic strength, since doubts linger regarding their performance.

However, high manufacturing expenses force producers to increase the cost of the plastics. This proves to be the greatest restraint for the increased use of these materials.

Leading plastics makers already involved in high temperature product development expect to continue in it, particularly for applications such as automotive and marine engines where there is money available to buy more expensive products. In the U.S., companies such as DuPont Inc, Solvay Advanced Polymers, Performance Plastics Ltd and many others continue to formulate newer versions polymers whose high thermal resistance will find them uses in automotive and industrial fuel systems.

The report points out that plastics processing continues to be more sensitive to environmental factors such as humidity, than metalworking. However, this is cancelled out by what the products offer in other ways.

""Injection moulding high temperature resistant plastics provide part makers with design flexibility, high production rates, lower labour costs, and less or no finishing of moulded parts,"" says Valenti. ""This compared to the costly and labour intensive forging, casting, cutting and grinding of metals are all reasons for the move towards polymers.""

Through computer-aided-design (CAD) tools, polymers can now be custom- designed to meet specifications, such as elevated temperatures and humidity, in distinct applications. Design engineers are also utilizing CAD to predict how a plastic gear will perform with greater accuracy, thus improving their development and demand.

Participants can also take advantage of the fact that plastic gears are corrosion resistant, and reduce noise significantly. This in addition to their low maintenance costs and longer wear can open up tremendous opportunities in the market.

Advances in High Temperature Plastics for Motors and Gears is part of the Chemicals, Materials, and Foods subscription (D916). The study analyses the advances in high temperature plastics for motors and gears, segmenting it into automotive, marine, oil and gas, materials handling, industrial machinery, and aviation applications. It discusses the various trends and opportunities while providing market share analysis, forecasts, drivers, restraints, and revenues.

The image shows the Bosch throttle device made from GFRP thermoplastic which was 25% lighter than their traditional aluminium throttle device.

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