ABC Group Inc. can celebrate its 40th anniversary with an award for one of its early breakthrough blow molding technologies.
The Toronto company won a Hall of Fame Award distinction from the Society of Plastics Engineers' automotive division for plastic chassis components made by blow molding thermoplastic elastomer. The parts, debuted on some General Motors Co. vehicles, first emerged from ABC Group laboratories in 1984.
The parts' name is a mouthful, almost as difficult to pronounce as the parts are to be molded. Constant velocity joint half-shaft drive-axle boot seals protect and lubricate under-chassis components in a very unfriendly environment of grease, salt, freezing water, mud and stones. They began to replace injection molded rubber boots on the bases of performance and cost.
SPE rightly spreads credit to ABC Group's key partners, DuPont Co. and General Motor Co.'s former Saginaw Steering Gear Division. DuPont supplied Hytrel thermoplastic copolyester elastomer for the application while the GM division supplied the know-how to adapt the blow molding technology to the automaker's vehicles. The partners' work began in 1977 with joint development of the first blow-molded TPE rack and pinion steering boot, itself a breakthrough for the time.
The new CVJ boots were “a far more robust CVJ sealing solution that also was lighter, more durable and less costly than the injection-molded rubber boots it replaced,” SPE noted in announcing the award. Early adopters were Buick Riviera, Cadillac Eldorado and the Oldsmobile Toronado sedans. Now, some 85 percent of front-axle CVJ boot seals on light-duty vehicles worldwide use TPE in this application to replace polychloroprene rubber. (DuPont also was a major producer of this type of rubber under the tradename Neoprene.)
SPE's auto division Hall of Fame awards are based on several criteria. Parts must be made of plastics or composites, they must have 15 years of continuous service in the market and preferably have been widely accepted within the automotive and transportation industries.
“It was a truly bold and revolutionary change to switch from thermoset rubber to thermoplastic elastomer,” stated David Reed, SPE Hall of Fame committee chair and retired GM employee, who also was involved in GM's approval process. “Saginaw ran every performance test we could come up with on the new material, and with each iteration, the TPE passed with flying colors. It offered us both low-temperature flex to -40° F [40° C] and high-temperature durability to 250° F [121° C].”