Topic of the month December 2010

Figure 1: Products and parts for electro technical applications on the basis of the new flame-retardant Ultramid® FRee of BASF. Source: BASF – The Chemical Company, 2010.

Plastic materials are increasingly convincing with high performance property profiles, which set useful technological impulses especially for the user industries of the international trade fairs wire and Tube. The growing understanding of the relationship between chemical consistence and composition and the resulting property profiles make new developments possible that are absolutely convincing in terms of the required materials characteristics. These materials, which are qualified as high performance plastic materials, have the potential for interesting material transfers and substitutions in all areas of modern industries - particularly in the context of sustainability and material efficiency.

PEEK: Indestructible Components with High Temperature Resistance

The abbreviation PEEK stands for the high performance plastic material polyetheretherketone. This material class convinces with its high temperature resistance. Components made of this material can withstand temperatures approximately up to 250 °C without problems. But the mechanical properties start to suffer from approximately 150 °C and they start to decline significantly in this temperature range. With their new development VESTAKEEP® 5000 G, the company Evonik Industries is now presenting a novel PEEK type that is able to solve this application-relevant disadvantage. The characteristics of VESTAKEEP ® 5000 G are an increased impact resistance of 20 % and significantly enhanced tensile strengths compared to conventional PEEK types. As a result VESTAKEEP ® 5000 G can easily be employed where other PEEK versions will fail. This plastic material is particularly interesting for the suppliers of the oil and gas industry, who are not only working in the range of -40 up to 150 °C, but also far beyond these temperatures.

High Security Relevance: New Flame-retardant Plastics

BASF has recently placed new flame-retardant plastic materials from the Ultramid® FRee series on the market. This new material specification unites three key properties: it combines an extraordinarily high flame resistance, which is achieved without the addition of halogen containing additives, with a bright inherent color. This demanding property profile is of growing importance for the manufacturers of electronic components, because various, mostly bright colorings alleviate the classification to specific purposes of use. Furthermore, these material developments are based on a polyamide (PA), which is highly chemical resistant, absorbs only little amounts of water and is manufactured out of over 60 % of renewable resources. According to the developers, this material is best suitable to realize optimized property profiles in line safety switches, power sockets and switch housings, for example, which are typical applications in electrical engineering. Schneider Electric, a global energy management company, has already successfully tested the new Ultramid ® FRee S3U40G5 Balance of BASF and it was subsequently approved for application.

Figure 2: Novel polymer metal composites provide sensory properties for the detection of the mechanical loading profile. Source: Fraunhofer IFAM.

Intelligent and Innovative: Plastics Monitor Themselves

Scientists from the team of project manager Arne Haberkorn from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials, IFAM in Bremen have developed a new generation of polymer metal composites with integrated sensor properties. This innovation enables the production of plastic components, which have the ability to monitor themselves in many technical applications - especially in large-scale applications. This includes the detection of occurring mechanical exposure profiles of components used in wind turbines and aircraft wings, for example. Until now, such sensors were normally worked into the respective components by a complex method or they got stuck to their surfaces. These polymer metal composite materials obtain their good sensory properties due to their high metal content. "If required, we can achieve a metallic filler content up to 90 weight percent”, says Arne Haberkorn. If loads occur during various operations, the electrical resistance of the component changes significantly. These signals can be transferred form the component by cables and passed to different measurement devices. For the production of such composites all kinds of polymers are suitable as matrix materials. As a result, the composites can easily be adjusted to a variety of tailor made purposes. Due to their characteristics these materials can be processes with conventional machines from the plastics production, such as extruders or injection molding machines. Furthermore, the materials can be laminated onto large scale areas. In the future, the scientists plan to apply their conductive plastic metal composites as viscous fluids on geometrically complex formed surfaces by using nozzles. By delivering several prototypes, the researchers have successfully proven that their method works. Currently they are looking for potential users and partners from the industry.

Dr.-Ing. Christoph Konetschny
Material and Nano expert

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