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Car buyers expect their new car to be absolutely perfect when they collect it from the showroom. But sometimes small scratches on the paintwork or minor dents in the bodywork occur during the production process. A new polyolefin foam now ensures effective body protection in the automotive industry.
(Published on November-December 2008 – JEC Magazine #45)
During vehicle assembly, workers often have to lean over the body to install certain components. If they accidentally let a heavy part slip out of their hands or if a screwdriver is sticking out of their pocket, the paintwork or bodywork can easily get damaged. Car manufacturers have long used covers to protect the painted bodies on the production line.
Sekisui Alveo, a leading manufacturer of polyolefin foams, has now improved the traditional covers made of rigid plastic. Its car body protection panels consist of a laminate made of a highly resistant foil up to 2.5 millimetres thick and soft Alveolit foam. The foil can reliably withstand an impact without being punctured. The Alveolit foam itself fits tightly against the surface of the body and can even absorb the force of a hammer blow. Unlike traditional body protection systems, the foam prevents the hard plastic cover from leaving marks on the paintwork.
The protection panels are vacuum formed by Tecni-form. They fit precisely onto the vehicle model and are held in place by a variety of techniques. The panels are re-usable and are already being applied in serial production for body protection at a European car manufacturer whose production is based in the UK.
A multitude of applications
“So far, our car body protection panels have mainly been used by car manufacturers on their production lines, but they are equally suitable for transport protection, packaging or protecting vehicle bodies in garages,” explains Hans Gallati, manager of the Automotive business unit at Sekisui Alveo. “These panels offer optimum protection during repair work and can be used over and over again.”
About Sekisui Alveo AG
Headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland, Sekisui Alveo AG develops and produces cross-linked polyolefin foams used in adhesive coating, automotive, consumer goods, construction, general converting and footwear applications. The solutions are developed in close cooperation with processing companies and manufacturers, before being tested and approved in the company’s application services laboratory. Sekisui Alveo is owned by Sekisui Chemical Co. Ltd, which, with its globally active subsidiaries, serves approximately 50% of the global market with cross-linked polyolefin foams. In fiscal 2007, Sekisui Alveo and its approx. 470 employees produced 13,000 metric tons of polyolefin foams, generating sales of more than EUR 100 million.
When the panel comes to the end of its service life, the entire complex can be easily recycled, as both the foil and the foam are polyolefin materials. Sekisui Alveo produces the two components of the panels in various thicknesses according to requirements. The polyolefin foam manufacturer, who in this case also produces the foil, applies a thermal lamination process to laminate the panels. No adhesive is required. As a result, Sekisui Alveo offers further processing industries full solutions from a single source. Due to the very good mechanical properties of both the foil and the foam, even complex parts can be vacuum formed easily. “We are producing a wide range of internal and external automotive protection parts, from what is proving to be a very versatile product. Support from Sekisui Alveo in developing this product has been first class”, states John Brogden, project manager at Tecni-form. The car body protection panels are distributed by a major distributor of consumables.