DEMANDS INCREASE ON EPDMS

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SAN ANTONIO — Increasing quality demands from the auto industry are building pressure on makers of ethylene propylene diene monomer elastomers to improve the processability and consistency of the synthetic rubber product, according to an industry speaker at Flexpo 97 in San Antonio.

Walter Kelly, materials development manager for Fairlawn, Ohio-based GenCorp Inc., said EPDM technology has to keep pace with the demand from Detroit automakers for better appearance and longevity.

According to Kelly, recent J.D. Powers studies showed those characteristics ranked high with consumers.

``Those studies hit Detroit right between the eyes, even if they won't admit it,'' said Kelly, whose company provides vehicle sealants for several major automakers.

GenCorp is the sole provider of weatherstrips for such vehicles as Ford's Ranger and Explorer and GM's Blazer and pickup trucks.

Kelly said Detroit's demands could be met in a number of ways, including using hybrid materials combining EPDM with other thermoplastic elastomers and thermoplastic olefins. In some cases, EPDM could be extruded before being overlaid with a TPE.

``Now we're being asked to color coordinate the weatherstrip with the interior of the vehicle,'' Kelly said. ``It's a cosmetic detail, but it has to last. Before, that sort of thing was desirable, but now it's needed.''

Emmanuel Kontos, director of elastomers technology and licensing for Uniroyal Chemical Co. in Middlebury, Conn., agreed with Kelly, saying his company's RoyalEdge EPDM, introduced commercially earlier this year, is designed to fit those needs in weatherstrips.