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Vehicle lightweighting a focus for Lanxess at K 2013

By: Frank Esposito

June 26, 2013

DORMAGEN, GERMANY — For Lanxess AG, light is equaling heat as the German materials maker approaches the upcoming K show.

“Lightweighting is the hot topic for the K fair,” Lanxess executive Martin Wanders said in a June 21 interview at the firm’s production plant in Dormagen. “We’ve received a lot of requests for lightweight-design materials.”

To meet these requests, Lanxess will be unveiling new lightweight grades of compounds based on its Durethan-brand nylon 6 resins and Pocan-brand polybutylene terphthalate materials. New applications for its Tepex-brand composite sheet also will be featured.

“In under-hood parts, trends require high-performance, cost-effective thermoplastics,” said Wanders, who’s head of global application development for high-performance materials. “Vehicles have smaller and more efficient engines, so we need to improve our materials to follow that trend.”

New XTS-brand grades of both nylon and PBT will focus on lighter-weight. Plastic/metal hybrids have allowed for 15 percent weight reduction in internal auto parts since 2005. Lighter weights also allow for better gas mileage.

The new grades will have improved flow properties as well. “Having lower flow lengths and shorter cycle times opens the door to structural applications,” Wanders said.

Lanxess — based in Leverkusen, but in the process of moving along with 1,000 employees to nearby Cologne by the end of the year — also is launching new LED grades of nylon and PBT for light housings.

The Tepex product line was acquired last year as part of Lanxess’ purchase of German processor Bond Laminates GmbH. The material can be overmolded onto brake pedals and similar products to improve strength and performance.

Outside of automotive, a Tepex product based on thermoplastic polyurethane is used as a layer in athletic shoes. One of the more dramatic goals of the recent German soccer season was scored by a player wearing shoes with a Tepex layer. Half of the goals scored on the recent Euro 2012 soccer tournament also were scored by players running on Tepex.

“Our focus is to bring Tepex sheet into mass-product applications,” Wanders said.

Lanxess generates more than half of its high-performance material sales from the automotive sector. The firm is optimistic about the global auto market’s prospects, as witnessed by last year’s opening of an auto-focused compounding plant in Gastonia NC and by plans to open a similar plant in Porto Feliz, Brazil, by the end of the year.

Elsewhere, Lanxess earlier this year opened a plastics development center in Hong Kong. A new nylon 6 resin plant with almost 200 million pounds of annual capacity — making it one of the world’s largest — is set to open in early 2014.

Lanxess also recently opened a massive 220 million pound-capacity butyl rubber plant in Singapore. The plant cost more than $500 million to build and will create about 160 new jobs.

In 2012, Lanxess posted sales of almost $12 billion. The firm employs 17,400 in 31 countries worldwide.