BASF Corp. wants to get inside automakers' heads - and inside their vehicles - with new grades of thermoplastic polyurethane for the North American auto market.
An aliphatic grade of the Florham Park, N.J.-based firm's Elastollan-brand TPU is giving it entry into auto interiors for the first time, said sales and marketing representative Jeff DeGross. Improved light stability and the elimination of plasticizers have allowed the material ``to get its foot in the door,'' DeGross said.
The aliphatic grade is produced at BASF sites in Germany and already has been commercialized on a cup holder overmolding on the 2006 Audi A6.
``We need to get [automakers] to believe that TPU is usable on their product,'' DeGross said at NPE 2006 in Chicago. ``With customers being such a big driver, a lot of auto companies and [original equipment manufacturers] are trying to differentiate via interiors.''
Also, a slush-molding grade of aliphatic TPU is now available in North America. It can be used in instrument panel skins and has a scrap rate of less than 4 percent. The new grade already is in use on IP skins on the 2006 Land Rover Discovery.
Elsewhere at BASF, the firm is seeing strong results from its PlasticsPlus program, a new marketing and service model for specialty styrenic products like acrylonitrile styrene acrylate and Ecoflex-brand biodegradable resin.
Styrenic copolymers business manager Sharon Clemons said the firm has been able to share knowledge in a smoother fashion since PlasticsPlus was initiated in Europe late last year and in North America earlier this year.
``With the market getting more complex, we have to take a look at whole-system costs,'' Clemons said. ``And being able to share that knowledge and experience worldwide definitely helps. These are not commodity products, so we have to work with our partners very closely.''
The program has helped BASF grow ASA into markets like construction cap stock, decking and railing. The firm also is using the program for development work on a wood-filled ASA substrate.
Earlier this year, BASF completed an expansion that doubled capacity for its Ultrason polysulfone and polyethersulfone resins at a plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany.
BASF Corp. is a unit of BASF AG, based in Ludwigshafen. Plastics was BASF AG's single-largest unit in 2005, bringing in 11.7 billion euros ($14.7 billion) - about 27 percent of total sales.