World’s first polyamide beads foam developed in Japan
With ongoing disruptive megatrends in the automotive industry, auto OEMs and suppliers are facing strong pressure to innovate according to materials supplier Asahi Kasei. “New, innovative solutions are in high demand,” the Japanese firm says. The company claims that its newly developed polyamide (PA) beads foam offers unique possibilities for lightweight and noise reducing applications.
PA Foam features the typical heat, chemical and oil resistant properties of polyamide, combined with outstanding rigidity or noise reducing quality depending on the shape of the beads. PA Foam consisting of round-shaped beads features strong rigidity, making it a promising alternative material for aluminum and metal in structural applications, as well as for use for insulators, ducts, spacers, or other lightweight parts of the battery case of electrified vehicles.
Further, PA Foam with a C- or macaroni-shape provides noise insulation in addition to the typical polyamide properties. Potential applications can be found everywhere around the car, especially in the engine compartment, where the material can unfold its unique qualities. Used for engine covers, for example, it not only contributes to lightweight, but also significantly reduces the radiating engine noise, making the car quieter overall.
These noise reduction qualities of the foam also contribute to enhanced comfort inside the car. With the rising popularity of car sharing and the expected introduction of autonomous driving, the automotive interior is becoming more and more important as a space for relaxation and comfort – a space of living. PA Foam can significantly contribute to the quality of this new in-vehicle living space via the insulation and reduction of noise radiating from the car itself, as well as reducing noise coming from the outside. Possible applications can be found in the roof and hood, but also in the seat and floor structure.
Foam beads made of PA can be processed using the steam molding process on standard polystyrene molding equipment. Furthermore, a significant reduction of resin for the production process can be achieved, contributing to an overall cost reduction.
Disruptive CASE (Connected – Autonomous – Shared – Electrified) megatrends are leveraging the pressure to innovate on the automotive industry to new heights. In addition to changing consumer needs, EU legislation concerning the reduction of CO2 emissions has been significantly pushing demand for new and innovative lightweight materials as a substitute for metal and aluminum parts.
At the same time these materials have to live up to the high safety standards of the automotive industry, and to provide solutions to changing and tightening regulations worldwide. Plastics and foams, with their broad range of properties, will become a key in this field according to Asahi Kasei, contributing to a reduction of CO2 emissions of conventional passenger cars with combustion engines, and a longer driving distance for electric cars.
Another challenge for the automotive industry is the tightening of noise regulations. With Regulation No. 51-031 issued by the United Nations in 2016, the noise level emitted to the outside must be continuously reduced in newly manufactured vehicles.
Asahi Kasei is one of only four fully integrated PA manufacturers worldwide – and is able to produce PA 66 from monomer to compound. Based on this expertise, the company is currently developing the foam bead material PA Foam– the first of its kind worldwide. It is offering solutions to both aforementioned challenges in the automotive industry – stiffness, mechanical strength and heat resistance for use in structural lightweight applications of cars, and noise reducing characteristics.
“Asahi Kasei introduces new possibilities of foam materials by launching the PA Foam with unprecedented high heat resistance to the market,” commented Takauji Namatame, Senior Manager of the Corporate R&D Division at Asahi Kasei Europe. “In Europe, where environmental awareness is strong, the need for lightweight applications is expected to further increase in the future, especially in the automotive industry. Our foam opens new doors for applications, which at the same time require lightweight and heat resistance. In addition, the noise reduction properties resulting from the special shape of the beads will meet the growing demand regarding applications that reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).”
Asahi Kasei will present the PA Foam at the Foam Expo Europe, to be held from 10–12 September in Stuttgart, Germany.