GE Plastics claims it has pushed the envelope for high-performance thermoplastics.
The firm announced it has developed a family of thermoplastic polyimides, called Extem, that sets new highs for temperature and chemical resistance.
``GE's new Extem resin line represents a huge leap in cost performance designed to help our customers grow their business,'' said Brian Herington, GE general manager of high-performance polymers. It is the first new advanced polymer family from the Pittsfield, Mass., firm in more than 20 years.
GE Plastics will have commercial quantities of Extem available in early 2007, when it begins producing it at its Mount Vernon, Ind., plant. Extem builds on GE Plastics' lengthy experience with Ultem polyetherimide, but has more impressive strength properties, company officials said in a Nov. 14 webcast.
As molded, Extem properties include a glass-transition temperature of 593° F, said Robert Costella, global product manager for high-performance polymers. It can withstand continuous-use temperatures of up to 446° F.
The material is dimensionally stable over a wide temperature range and exceptionally resistant to chemicals, including chlorinated solvents. It is inherently fire resistant without the use of halogens. It is naturally transparent amber.
GE sees Extem breaking new ground in applications in defense, oil and gas processing, aerospace, automotive, electronics, semiconductor wafer handling and specialty fibers.
Costella said Extem benefits from glass-fiber reinforcement by becoming stiffer. It can be blended with other resins for tailored properties. GE Plastics affiliate LNP Engineering Plastics Inc. of Exton, Pa., will help develop new blends and alloys.
So far, GE has come up with about 75 Extem formulations. The firm is working with about 30 undisclosed customers to develop applications. Molders and extruders should be able to process it in high-heat equipment with minimal modification, GE said.
Extem overcomes drawbacks of competing plastics, GE claims. Unlike high-end semicrystalline polymers, it exhibits creep resistance and dimensional stability under load at high temperatures. Unlike imidized thermosets such as polyamide-imide, which must be machined from stock shapes or melt processed, Extem is fully moldable and requires no post-mold curing to eliminate brittleness.
GE Plastics began work on Extem in 1993. It married that technology in 1995 with new, proprietary monomers based on amine and anhydride chemistries. It has been supplying developmental quantities of Extem from a pilot plant. After commercial production starts, the firm plans to introduce it to an expanded polymer facility in Cartagena, Spain, where it is spending $250 million on projects that include boosting Ultem capacity by 30 percent worldwide in 2008.
Mount Vernon recently completed a $30 million capacity expansion for Ultem and Siltem, GE's high-performance polymer for fibers.