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31 May 2007

Expanding The Limits – New Crosslinking Applications For The Automotive Industry

Joachim Gehring of BGS Beta-Gamma-Service, Germany presented this paper at IMRP 2006 in Kuala Lumpur. It is now available on the iia website, along with other business presentations.

Irradiation of crosslinked components for industrial mass-production vehicles has been widely accepted for a long time because of the excellent cost to performance ratio. For example in 1975 the Volkswagen Golf contained approximately 45 kg of plastics, whereas in 2004 the total there was about 140 kg. In 2004 there were sales of 49 million automobiles and light vehicles worldwide, with 14.5 million in Western Europe alone.

Due to their well-balanced material properties and their good cost-performance ratio, polyamides play an important part among the polymers used in vehicle construction. The European automotive industry uses more than 720,000 tonnes of polyamide annually. Particularly useful are their good heat resistance, resistance to chemicals and the possibility of modifying them to obtain better stiffness. Polyamides are the first choice particularly for applications in the engine compartment, due to the high temperatures that develop there.

A simple, very beneficial example: radiation crosslinking improves the combustion behaviour of a car door handle made of glass fibre- reinforced polyamide. If a fire occurs the crosslinked handle no longer melts and thus cannot drip. Even after the fire is out, fire fighters can open the door from the outside.

In future, producers of raw materials will be concentrating on types of plastics that give them a dominant position on the market. Thus expect fewer varieties of plastic types currently available, and that customized plastics for special purposes will become very expensive. This means that in order to meet their customers’ requirements at all, processors of plastics will have to find new ways of obtaining the properties their customers need from those plastics that are available. The radiation processing industry can fulfil these demands by crosslinking parts made out of polyamide and other plastic materials.