Materials group Lanxess (Hall 6, Stand C54) this year made its way through a process of transformation, culminating in April when it started its Arlanxeo joint venture in synthetic rubber with Saudi Aramco.
With the rubber business operating separately, the “New Lanxess," based in Cologne, Germany, is focused on engineering thermoplastics (ETP), composites, chemical intermediates and specialty chemicals.
A new division called High Performance Materials (HPM) houses the first two product groups and serves key markets in automotive and electrical/electronics (E&E), plus construction, packaging and sports/leisure. HPM's four main brands are: Durethan (nylons), Pocan (polybutylene terephthalate), Tepex (composites) and HiAnt (engineering know-how).
“As a company we have made enormous progress over the past 24 months. Not only have we established a new strategic position for our business, we have also achieved some significant wins with respect to new applications for some of our advanced solutions,” said Hubert Fink, a member of the Lanxess board of management.
He picked out one high profile example: the Honda Clarity hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, which uses Tepex in combination with Durethan to manufacture the world's first hybrid molded rear bumper beam. The hybrid bumper is approximately 50 percent lighter than a metal alternative and enables streamlining of the production process.
“This represents a significant advance — because a one-shot molding process makes possible the production of large components out of plastic and continuous glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic composites,” he said.
Fink was speaking at a press event in Düsseldorf in June at which K 2016 organizer Messe Düsseldorf hosted some of the exhibiting companies participating at the event in October.
He said the Lanxess motto for this year's event is "Quality works."
“We are a company on the move right now and we want to show you quality works for our clients,” he said.
The main developments in ETPs and composites which will be shown at K 2016 were presented by Michael Zobel, head of Lanxess' HPM business unit.
“All of us at HPM have a passion for innovation,” he said. “And we channel that passion into customized services and other activities we undertake on behalf of our clients.”
The HPM business employs 1,500 people, serving about 600 clients around the world. Zobel noted its strength in the automotive and E&E sectors, with its customer support backed up by a network of compounding operations on four continents, along with product and application development centers.
“For the automotive industry, HPM has emerged as a strong development partner,” he said.
Lanxess is “particularly proud” of Tepex, he said. The Tepex products are continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic composite sheets made by Bond-Laminates, the German company bought by Lanxess in 2012.
“I'm pleased to say that more and more [vehicle] manufacturers have seen the light,” said Zobel. “Large volume series applications for Tepex are currently in the works and close to entering the market.”
One such application that started mass production in 2015 is a van battery console manufactured for an OEM whose identity Lanxess has not revealed. Zobel said the console is fabricated in a direct long fiber thermoplastic process from a polypropylene compression molding compound. This is reinforced with long glass fibers and an overlay made of Tepex Dynalite sheet.
Tepex is being used to replace an insert that previously relied on a consolidated hybrid yarn fabric made of glass and PP fibers. The decision to switch to Tepex was because of more demanding crash test standards.
This year, an OEM – which Zobel referred to only as “a large German car manufacturer” – has started using Tepex Dynalite for the mass production of underfloor protection panels. The car is an SUV in the premium segment.
The protection panel is made in a one-step thermoforming process. The PP-based, low-weight, reinforced thermoplastics – which give underbody panels sound insulation – are stiffened with Tepex surface layers to withstand the mechanical loads whether the car is being driven on- or off-road.
A development that could prove popular at K 2016 in October is a consumer electronics application that combines Tepex sheet, injection molding and in-mold decoration (IMD). The development is intended for strong and stiff housings for devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks.
“This results in components that offer remarkably robust surfaces, extraordinary freedom for designers and no need for any painting. And because this process is highly automated and efficient, it saves manufacturers time, money and effort. What more could anyone ask for?”
Bond-Laminates worked with partners Leonhard Kurz Stiftung and Engel in the development. Explaining the process, Andy Dentel, project manager at Bond-Laminates, said in a release: “We start with a semi-finished thermoplastic composite with the trade name Tepex Dynalite. This is formed by closing an injection mold, back-injected, and decorated inline using an IMD integration process specially developed for this purpose, an advancement over Kurz's existing in-mold process. It involves the use of a transfer coating system.”
The new manufacturing process from Kurz and Bond-Laminates will be demonstrated on Engel's stand at K 2016. The demonstration product is a housing component with a wall thickness of 0.6mm, which both companies will have on display.
At the exhibition, Lanxess will also have E&E and automotive applications making use of its ETPs.
At the June press event, Zobel highlighted Pocan PBT, which has properties that include low warpage, “excellent” flame retardance and is easy to process.
Italian company Askoll is using Pocan AF 4110 to make housing components for its new e-bike and e-scooter batteries. The new compound is a blend of PBT and ASA reinforced with 12 percent glass fibers. Lanxess will exhibit the Askoll ES2 two-seater e-scooter at its K 2016 stand.
Lanxess has expanded the Pocan AF product line, which currently comprises variants with 20 percent and 30 percent glass fiber reinforcement. It said other potential applications besides battery cell housings include connectors that are subject to mechanical loads and housings for electronic circuits such as battery management systems.
An easy-flowing Pocan PBT/polycarbonate blend was also highlighted by Zobel. Pocan C 3230 XF (standing for “XtremeFlow”) is used to injection mold a roller support for a food processor from “a premium household appliance manufacturer.” The material has 30 percent glass fiber reinforcement.
Zobel said at the June press event the manufacturer of the food processor was supported by Lanxess' HiAnt team during development of the roller support, through the use of mold filling simulation and other services.
Other Lanxess ETPs being shown at K include Durethan nylon 6, which the company says is a profitable alternative to nylon 6/6 in automotive oil pans for engines and gear boxes.