DETROIT — An in-mold color system designed by BASF AG and three European partners is being used in the roof of the European Smart Car and will be used in a large body part in a North American vehicle in 2002.
The Paintless Film Molding system was developed by BASF; injection molding machine maker Engel Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH of Schwertberg, Austria; Plexiglas acrylic resin maker Rohm GmbH of Darmstadt, Germany; and film and sheet extruder Senoplast of Piesendorf, Austria.
BASF, based in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with North American headquarters in Mount Olive, N.J., contributed its Luran-brand acrylic styrene acrylonitrile resin and other engineering resin blends to the process.
In the PFM process, a trilayer film is placed over injection molded backing material such as ABS or blends of ASA/polycarbonate or polybutylene terephthalate/ PC. The trilayer consists of a colored ASA layer and two acrylic layers, one colored and one clear.
The process can create huge savings by cutting painting costs and emissions. The finished parts also are recyclable, said Donald McLean, senior account manager in BASF's Troy, Mich., office.
``This is the way to go for any company that makes automotive parts but doesn't have $5 million to put into a painting facility,'' McLean said at SAE '99 in Detroit.
He said the triple-layer film offers depth of color and excellent ultraviolet protection even if the initial two coats are scratched.
McLean would not give details on the North American debut of the PFM process, saying only it would be used on a large body part for a 2002-model vehicle.
Senoplast business operations manager Michael Reeves said his company has produced exterior-grade materials for almost 20 years, but has moved into the automotive market only in the past four or five years after improving its production process to maintain the gloss levels required by car buyers. Previously the materials had been used in body panels on campers and other recreational vehicles.
``We know it's a long process to get approved in the automotive market, but we're very optimistic,'' Reeves said.
Senoplast claims to be Europe's largest independent extruder with 85 million pounds of annual film and sheet production and sales of about $95 million, Reeves said.