Trexel Inc. and Rhodia SA are joining forces to create a nylon blend specially formulated for use with the MuCell process - which could fuel growth for both companies in under-the-hood automotive applications.
Automakers like MuCell's microcellular process for its ability to produce dimensionally stable parts, but do not like the surface appearance of those parts.
Working with Rhodia's Technyl Star line, though, the two companies have created a blend that can contain all the dimensional improvements of MuCell, but with the glossy Class A surface needed for parts like engine covers and rocker covers.
``It's possible to engineer a resin that's MuCell-specific,'' David Bernstein, president and chief executive officer of Woburn, Mass.-based Trexel, said June 20 at NPE 2006 in Chicago.
The combination allows both companies to approach customers with a complete system combining both resin and the processing expertise.
``You're bringing together something that can offer them dimensional stability and surface, but also reduce overall weight, improve their cycle time and improve performance and working all with one team,'' said Jean-Claude Steinmetz, Rhodia's vice president for the automotive and transportation markets.
The two companies have been working together for about a year to fine-tune the process, and Rhodia has introduced two blends specifically for use with MuCell - the Technyl XCell 6.6 and XCell 6 polyamides.
Both companies expect the development to help increase the use of thermoplastics in engine rocker covers.
The nylon components are relatively common in Europe and Japan, but have been slower to gain acceptance in North America.
The U.S. and Canada tend to rely on larger engines, which require larger parts, and demand more dimensional stability. MuCell can provide that - but not with the aesthetic qualities that automakers demand for visible engine components, said Chad Waldschmidt, North American director of engineering plastics for Rhodia.
The combined offering addresses both issues.
``We've had good, strong, steady growth, but clearly the majority of the market is out of reach because of the need for appearance,'' Bernstein said.
The companies expect the new blend to get its first commercial application in 2007.
Rhodia is not the only resin maker working with Trexel.
Trexel has been working with ExxonMobil Chemical Co.'s Santoprene unit to create a foamed automotive thermoplastic vulcanate that could replace foamed rubber weather seals. The companies first announced their collaboration in 2004, and are working on the next generation of foamed TPV.
``What we're seeing is that Trexel is aligning with material suppliers for specific purposes that represent win-wins for the material and for Trexel,'' Bernstein said.
Trexel has been addressing other problems to help ensure its growth in other markets as well.
For molders producing computer and printer cases, Trexel has found an inexpensive, proprietary mold-coating solution that can retain surface quality on resins such as ABS, polycarbonate/ABS and high-impact polystyrene. Processors can turn out parts with thinner walls without sacrificing surface quality, he said.