One of the unique aspects of poly-urethanes is their elastomeric properties. As a consequence, materials like SPECTRIM BP 80, a polyurea composite polymer from Dow Automotive (Midland, MI), are finding their way into automotive applications such as body panels where high impact resistance is required.
As an example, the material is being used in fender flares on the new Ford F-350 dual rear wheel trucks. "If the body panel isn't tough enough with good paint adhesion, the impact can create a mesh of cracks in the panel and chips in the painted surface," says Randy Scott, Dow's marketing manager for body panels. But after a simulated 150,000-mile durability test driving rough desert roads in Arizona, the polymer panels resisted abrasions and stone pecking.
Weighing in at 15 lbs the molded components are 30% lighter than the sheet molding compound (SMC) fenders they replaced. And Ford's development costs were also lower, primarily because the polymer can be molded at lower pressures than SMC. That means the prototype tools could be made of epoxy, which are less than half the cost of metal or spray metal tools.
For consumers, the payoff is a tough truck that looks great from the start, and continues to look great after miles of rough roads.