Azdel Rail-Lite Brings Fire and Smoke Safety

09 December 2005

GE has announced a new grade of Rail-Lite thermoplastic composite from Azdel, made with the company’s Ultem polyetherimide (PEI) resin to meet the needs of the rail industry for lightweight materials offering superior flame retardance and low smoke and toxicity.

Metro-North Railroad, the third-largest commuter railroad in North America, is one user of this material. When Metro-North Railroad sought a replacement for acoustic ceiling panels in the cabs of its GE GENESIS passenger locomotives, it decided to find a material solution that was compliant with new flame and smoke requirements of the US Federal Railroad Association (FRA). A collaborative effort by GE - Plastics, Azdel, Inc. (a 50/50 joint venture of GE and PPG Industries), Schneller, and American Acoustical Products led to the innovative HushLiner FR acoustic ceiling panel, which features the Rail-Lite composite from Azdel.

American Acoustical Products’ HushLiner FR panels are based on a proprietary five-layer “sandwich” construction that includes a perforated Indura GTfilm decorative laminate from Schneller, Rail-Lite composite from Azdel, Inc., and various adhesives. The panels not only comply with ASTM flame and smoke standards mandated by the FRA, but also provide acoustic and sound-absorption properties, an attractive, cleanable surface that resists graffiti and delamination, and flexibility that makes them easy to install into confined spaces on locomotives.

The Rail-Lite composite, which was introduced at the 2004 Cologne Rail Show, is a thermoformable, lightweight composite that is an excellent candidate in large semi-structural panels for train interiors. The Rail-Lite composite is said to quickly char upon exposure to flame and emit very low levels of smoke and toxicity.

“As a current supplier of the ceiling panels for GE’s Infrastructure, Rail business, we worked closely with the GE - Plastics team to design a new headliner system for GE’s GENESIS series locomotives using the Rail-Lite composite material from Azdel, Inc.,” said Russell Moody, president of American Acoustical Products. “The use of GE’s Ultem resin in this composite enables the panels to comply with the FRA’s fire and smoke requirements and gives our company a new material solution for future applications.”

“The multi-layer sandwich system required carefully selected layers of materials to maintain or exceed a number of performance requirements, and the Rail-Lite composite with GE’s Ultem resin was a key factor in this equation,” said Dr. Benny David, global industry manager for Transportation Composites at GE - Plastics.

“Our product development for this application exceeded customer expectations by not only meeting FRA regulations for flame and smoke emission, but by also creating a robust, lightweight product that can be easily fabricated on-site for custom installations,” said Paul Disciullo, industry manager for GE - Plastics’ Specialty Film & Sheet business.

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