BASF is actively exploring shielded plastics applications, particularly automotive, as a major market opportunity.
One of the exhibits at the BASF booth is a housing for an electric vehicle inverter showing a 3.3 pound weight savings when metal housings are replaced with a shielded plastic.
“The plastic housing has the same shielding properties as the metal, but at less weight,” said Calvin C. Nichols in an interview. Nichols is market segment manager, transportation for BASF. He said there could be 100 applications in a car for shielding as use of automotive electronics explodes. Cumulative weight savings with plastics replacements could be roughly 50 pounds in a single car.
“A lot of the low-hanging lightweighting fruit has already been taken in automotive, and we see this application as a potentially important opportunity because it fits right into BASF’s sweet spot,” said Joel T. Johnson, VP Transportation at BASF.
Four BASF resins could potentially play a big role in shielding applications: polyamide 6, polyamide 6/6, PBT-type polyester, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
Another product on display at the NPE exhibit was a coaxial cable using shielded cable, another important metal-replacing, and weight-saving opportunity.
BASF is researching proprietary approaches to conductive plastics and is also working with partners, such as ElectriPlast. There are no clear winners at the moment. Options for shielding range from stainless steel fibers to metal-coated carbon fiber.
BASF has a long history of large-scale metal replacement in cars. One of the most significant was development of lost core molding technology in the Ludwigshaven, Germany R&D center to produce polyamide intake manifolds. Significant work has also taken place to replace metal oil pans with a specially formulated plastic.