Ford Motor Co.'s recent approvals of materials from DSM Thermoplastic Elastomers Inc. allow DSM to become only the second supplier of thermoplastic elastomers for high-performance automotive components. Those approvals eventually could help lead to a 20 percent share of the global TPE market by the turn of the century, said Malcolm Thompson, DSM general sales manager.
DSM, based in Leominster, Mass., developed the Sarlink 4000 line specifically for the automotive industry, using its Sarlink 3000 line with improved compression set and hydrocarbon resistance to meet the approval of automakers.
Automakers and their suppliers ``can't even talk seriously to you until you get those approvals,'' Thompson said.
Sarlink 4000 was released in 1994 but won its first approval from Ford in late 1995 after the automaker's purchasing group sponsored the material.
They really wanted a second source,'' Thompson said.
Before, materials for those sorts of applications were supplied only by Advanced Elastomer Systems L.P. of Akron, Ohio.
By having an alternative supplier, manufacturers secure their source of supply and gain the benefits of increased technical support and a more competitive price position, DSM said.
For someone else coming into this market, there are lots of obstacles, obviously, Thompson said.
An AES spokesman said that DSM's entry into high-performance automotive TPEs is not really an issue we're concerned with.
We're focused on moving full-steam ahead and not looking back at the competition, the spokesman said.
We'd like to think the Big Three [automakers] know where to come for TPE technology and technical assistance, the spokes-man said.
Thompson said DSM finds interest in Sarlink 4000 at General Motors Corp., and hopes Chrysler Corp. also will be interested.
Also, DSM's work with automakers in Asia is leading to interest among the transplant original equipment manufacturers in the United States, Thompson said.
Certainly our push right now is automotive, he said.
The use of TPEs is rising because DSM and its customers see more potential applications, according to DSM President Marc Lebel.
The fundamental advantages of TPEs - design flexibility and favorable economics of thermoplastic processing, plus the outstanding performance of [ethylene propylene diene monomer] rubber in terms of high temperature, and weather resistance - are well-understood in the market, Lebel said.
But we are also working on related product technologies - adhesion and foaming are critical subjects to us - as well as processing technology, such as three-dimensional blow molding, he added.
Up until now this level of quality and technology were not widely available in the marketplace, Lebel said.
TPEs have seen significant growth in recent years and have reached high penetration levels in the North American, European and Japanese automotive industries.
But in other areas where thermoset rubber is the primary material - such as South Korea - TPEs are taking off, Thompson said.
Automotive applications will represent about 45-50 percent of the worldwide TPE market in the year 2000, Thompson said.
Components the company can produce using its Sarlink brands include rack and pinion boots, strut boots, control cable coverings, underhood air ducts, bezel hoods, closeouts, gimps, cowl screens, side moldings and stone deflectors.