Materials firms A. Schulman Inc. and 3M Co. are working together to develop insulation and weight-reduced compounds that use 3M's engineered hollow glass microspheres, better known as glass bubbles.
The partnership combines 3M's marketing power and technology to produce best-in-class glass microspheres and A. Schulman's compounding capabilities, services and customer contacts, officials said in a Feb. 27 news release. Both firms also have extensive experience in weight reduction.
Early innovations from the partnership, which are now in production, include scuff plates in vehicles. These innovations show great potential for further lightweight applications, they added.
Heinrich Lingnau, Schulman's vice president/general manager of the Europe/Middle East/Africa region, said in the release that a materials weight reduction of 15 percent can be achieved without compromising on product properties.
Some of Schulman's newly developed reduced-density compounds can be used in existing tools without any changes in process or tool design. Reduced density leads to reduced fuel consumption in vehicles.
In addition to automotive lightweighting, Schulman is focusing on developing compounds with improved insulating properties for the construction industry. By using 3M glass bubbles in an existing compound, officials said, thermal conductivity can be reduced by 23 percent.
Fairlawn, Ohio-based Schulman is a leading compounder and concentrate maker in the U.S. and Europe and is one of Europe's largest resin distributors. The firm is in the process of being acquired by materials giant LyondelBasell Industries in a deal valued at $2.25 billion.
3M of St. Paul, Minn., posted sales of almost $32 billion in 2017. The firm makes a wide range of industrial products, including adhesives, abrasives and specialty materials.