‘TenCate natural choice for BASF’
BASF, Owens Corning and TenCate have jointly set their sights on the large-scale application of thermoplastic composites in the automobile industry. Car manufacturers are increasingly interested in industrial applications of light, strong, energy-efficient and cleaner solutions, such as composites. When it comes to knowledge, materials and technology, the partners complement one another. ‘In fact this is a model of industrial cooperation.’
The business unit Automotive Composites develops and manufactures advanced composite materials, bonding solutions and systems for the automotive sector and other industrial applications. In this respect TenCate now boasts a sound basis in composite technologies and a broad product portfolio. In pursuit of more cooperation within the value chain, two partnerships (among others) have been established: the European Thermoplastic Automotive Composites (eTAC) consortium and the strategic alliance with BASF (Germany) and Owens Corning (Ohio, US). The BASF contribution lies in its extensive knowledge of the production and formulation of thermoplastic resins. TenCate Advanced Composites is contributing its expertise in composite production, and Owens Corning is providing the fibre technology to develop customized fabrics and glass fibre-reinforced solutions.
The heart of the BASF Group is the Headquarter of BASF SE in Ludwigshafen (Germany). With more than 160 chemical production plants, several hundred labs, pilot plants, workshops and offices it is the largest industrial complex in Europe (Photo: BASF - The Chemical Company)
Cooperation along the value chain is necessary for two reasons: not only to develop automated process technologies and introduce them into this industry, but also to set the standard in new materials. The aim is to develop optimal solutions in thermoplastic composites for mass production in the automotive sector, as the demand for lightweight solutions is growing strongly. Composites contribute to reducing vehicle weight and therefore to decreasing CO2 emissions.
Johann-Diedrich Brand, Vice-President Marketing Engineering Plastics Europe
BASF is one of the largest chemical companies in the world. Furthermore the company is one of the largest chemical suppliers for the global automobile industry. Johann-Diedrich Brand (Vice-President Marketing Engineering Plastics Europe) sees the decision of BASF to join forces with TenCate as a natural choice. ‘We are both global market leaders: BASF as supplier to the automotive industry, TenCate in thermoplastic composite materials. TenCate has served the exacting aircraft industry well. Having played a leading role in that sector and amassed decades of experience, TenCate has everything in house to serve the automobile industry. And it’s here that the material expertise of BASF and the production expertise of TenCate converge. We complement each other in terms of knowledge and technology, and together we have a tremendous range. Together we will be able to offer competitive solutions as quickly as possible. No other competitor has this potential. This is an excellent partnership: in fact a model of industrial cooperation – for other branches of business as well.’
Reducing CO2 emission
The EU is committed to reducing CO2 emission in 2020 to 20% of the discharge in 1990. In 2013 the EU aims a threshold of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre for passenger cars for the average fleet of an OEM. The emission standards increase the need for lighter vehicles, but not at the expense of performance. The solution lies in more efficient engines, cleaner fuel and lower vehicle weight. Fibre-reinforced composites are 30 to 50% lighter than metal components. Furthermore thermoplastic composites are suitable for high-volume series production, offer considerable design freedom and are recyclable.
The world's first plastic engine support being used by Daimler is not only 30% lighter and considerably quieter than its aluminum predecessor. It has a beneficial effect on the service life of the engine mounts. The part is used in the new Mercedes GL Class from Daimler and is molded from the polyamide specialty Ultramid® A3WG10 CR from BASF.
This responds to the growing need for customized mobility, as well as to new demands regarding flexibility in design and production methods. Thermoset composites are mainly applied in small series sports cars and luxury models. However, the processing capacity does not (as yet) meet the industrial production speeds required by the car industry, which is geared towards large numbers. ‘We must show that our solutions are better and more efficient than metals such as aluminium. In terms of design freedom and integration of functionalities, composite solutions are competitive, and that’s where we can reap great rewards.’
The three partners are jointly developing the materials and the technologies to apply this relatively new class of materials. For example, TenCate Automotive Composites is developing several materials that BASF is going to market as a system solution with engineering and overmoulding polymers.
These development activities require comprehensive knowledge of the properties of materials and of substantial investments. And with 2020 in sight, time is pressing. Four to five years of development are needed to get a new car on the road, while even more time is needed to implement new technologies in mass production. That’s why cooperation within the value chain is necessary. ‘Introducing a new technology package into the industry is not something to be done alone. This is a revolution. We must do this together, combining our strengths. Our alliance is unique. All three are global organizations. The cultural differences work in our favour rather than otherwise, because the automobile industry is a global market.’
In October 2013 BASF is introducing an integrated package of products and solutions with the brand name Ultracom™. Here material development, production technology for structural parts and design capacities converge. The system solution consists of products and services: continuous fibre-reinforced laminates, overmoulding compounds, engineering knowledge (particularly part design). This involves thermoplastic laminate and UD tape from the TenCate companies in Nijverdal and Burlington (Canada) respectively. These are impregnated with engineering plastics from BASF.
Acceptance of thermoplastics
As far as acceptance of these materials is concerned, Johann-Diedrich Brand has no worries. Car manufacturers are showing increasing interest in automotive applications of light, strong, energy-efficient and cleaner solutions, such as composites. In fact composites are already being regularly used in the luxury sports-car segment. ‘The materials have an excellent reputation and are generally associated with high tech.
Nor is acceptance by consumers an issue. Aircraft are ahead of cars when it comes to the application of composites. ‘People won’t even notice it. It’s much more a question of material characteristics. In the future we will increasingly introduce materials where they best perform.’