Several plastics and elastomers have come out recently for different parts of cars, ranging from polyurethanes for honeycomb sandwich roof panel structures to ethylene acrylic elastomers for seals, gaskets and hoses, to an even tougher nylon 6/6.
In this slideshow we have examples of medical device part designs that combine silicones with thermoplastics, a multi-materials trend we've told you about several times, most recently here. There's also a new line of thermoplastic compounds that give a better balance of dielectric properties to on-board base station antenna components.
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Using BASF's Elastoflex E polyurethane foam system, it's now possible to mass-produce a honeycomb sandwich structure for an exterior car part, in this case a roof. The lightweight roof was developed by Fehrer Composite Components of Germany. The roof module in the standard model of the new Smart Fortwo car consists of a paper honeycomb surrounded by two glass fiber mats. These are impregnated with the low-density, thermally activable Elastoflex E 3532 and pressed together with a solid-colored class-A film, produced in a single manufacturing step. Honeycomb techniques have previously been used in car interiors, such as loading floors, roof linings, and rear shelves. BASF adjusted the viscosity and reactivity of Elastoflex E for exterior applications to ensure optimal processing and adhesion, as well as long spray times for larger parts.
Ann R. Thryft is senior technology editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She's been writing about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 27 years, covering manufacturing materials & processes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she's also written about machine vision and all kinds of communications.