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HYBRID, MODULAR TECHNOLOGIES; HIGH-HEAT RESISTANT THERMOPLASTICS; ETCH- RESISTANT POLYURETHANE COATINGS; ENERGY ABSORBING POLYURETHANE FOAMS TO HIGHLIGHT AUTO INNOVATIONS, MILES OFFICIAL REPORTS

HYBRID, MODULAR TECHNOLOGIES; HIGH-HEAT RESISTANT THERMOPLASTICS; ETCH-

RESISTANT POLYURETHANE COATINGS; ENERGY ABSORBING POLYURETHANE FOAMS
 TO HIGHLIGHT AUTO INNOVATIONS, MILES OFFICIAL REPORTS
 DETROIT, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Hybrid and modular technologies that offer manufacturing economies and weight reduction advantages for auto doors, seats and bumpers are high on the auto industry's new materials development agenda, it was reported here today by Dr. Joseph P. Backes, vice president in charge of the Miles Inc. Automotive Products Center in Troy, Mich.
 In the auto industry's drive to produce safe, stylish, fuel- efficient and cost-competitive cars for the mid-1990s, Backes said, other emerging materials technologies include:
 -- High-heat-resistant engineering thermoplastics and rubbers to meet more demanding automotive lighting and under-the-hood requirements.
 -- Energy-absorbing polyurethane foam systems to enhance safety in air bag-equipped auto interiors.
 -- Etch-resistant polyurethane coatings for high-quality, long-term protection of car exteriors.
 Backes presented this materials technology assessment in conjunction with the 1992 SAE International Congress & Exposition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers and being held Feb. 24-28 at Cobo Center here. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Miles (booth No. 1618) is an exhibitor at the show.
 Backes has been active in managing applications development services to the auto industries in the United States, Germany and Japan for about 20 years. In his current position at the Automotive Products Center, he heads the coordination of marketing and technological support for all automotive applications of Miles products.
 Key Materials Developments Bear Out Design Engineer Survey
 The trends in materials development reported today, Backes said, bear out some major findings of the survey of 300 automotive design engineers, conducted for Miles by Market Opinion Research, which were announced at the 1990 SAE Show.
 At that time, 89 percent of the engineers surveyed said that plastic composites with metal or fiber reinforcement topped the list of materials likely to enjoy increased usage in the manufacturing of autos. Second on the list of design breakthroughs forecast was in under-the- hood applications. In addition, nearly 40 percent of the engineers said they expected greater than 30 percent growth in the use of polyurethane coatings for cars' exterior finishes. Safety was rated as an important consumer-driven force by 73 percent of the engineers surveyed.
 Backes stated that auto makers are supporting a variety of concurrent engineering programs to capitalize early on the skills of outside engineers, and materials and components suppliers for the development of new automotive technologies.
 "One benefit of this early involvement is that it is facilitating development of new modular component technologies that integrate plastics and metals to maximize design and manufacturing effectiveness," he continued.
 "Selectively combining plastics and metals yields synergistic results which may provide the ideal balance of weight and cost reduction, safety and style requirements critical for fueling innovation in the automotive industry," he said.
 As an example of the results already obtained by early involvement, Backes cited his company's role in the evolution of the Ford Contour concept car, which promotes polymeric materials in conjunction with an aluminum spaceframe.
 Another new concept for automotive doors and other complex load- bearing structures uses engineering thermoplastics and metal.
 Because of its good structural strength, a polymer also has been used extensively in a modular car seat development program. Made primarily of engineering thermoplastics, but also including metals, prototypes of the seats indicate that they could yield potential weight savings up to 10 to 20 percent compared to typical steel-framed seats in use today.
 The push for cost-effective modular design and assembly also is being extended to the front and rear bumpers of automobiles, Backes said. His company now is working with one of Detroit's Big Three auto markers on an all-polyurethane modular bumper in which the three major elements of a bumper are combined into one, ready-to-mount piece that offers low assembly costs and light weight.
 Polyurethane Coatings for Environmental Etch Resistance
 For high-quality bumper-to-bumper protection, a growth area is the use of clear two-component polyurethane topcoats to help protect and enhance automobile exteriors, Backes said. Since a tough polyurethane clearcoat made its North American debut on the 1989 models of the Mercury Grand Marquis and Ford Crown Victoria, the use of polyurethane topcoats has increased significantly. For the 1992 model year, the exteriors of some 16 automobile models produced by the Big Three are protected by clear two-component polyurethane topcoats containing Miles coating resins, he stated.
 The polyurethane coatings provide exceptional gloss and surface appearance, "and are widely known for offering the best available protection against the spotting caused by acid rain, bird dropping and other degrading substances," Backes pointed out.
 High-Heat-Resistance Polycarbonate and PPS Resins for Lighting
 Another area where innovation is taking place is in automotive headlamps, Backes said.
 Today, "the emphasis is on downsizing headlamp assemblies to enhance aerodynamic styling," he noted. "Coupled with this is the introduction of new high-intensity sources, which can raise the temperature in a downsized headlamp beyond the heat distortion temperature of conventional lens-grade materials."
 In response, Miles is offering clear Apec high-heat polycarbonate grades, capable of operating in environments over 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
 The exceptional heat resistance provided by another engineering thermoplastic -- Tedur PPS (polyphenylene sulfide) resin -- also places it high on the list of "materials to watch," Backes said, for reflectors, sockets and other components of downsized headlamp assemblies.
 In the 1990 survey, 55 percent of the design engineers said that high-temperature resistance was a property which would characterize materials to experience increased use by the year 2000.
 Energy-Absorbing Polyurethane Foams for Improved Interior Safety
 The incorporation of air bags into automobiles "is creating a growing need for energy-absorbing components in strategic interior areas," said Backes.
 This is because during an impact, occupants in air bag-equipped cars tend to slide under the passive restraints, or move sideways, he pointed out. These movements can cause knees to strike the steering column or instrument panel, or can press shoulders against doors. As a result, knee and shoulder holsters, steering column shrouds and other interior parts made with high energy-absorbing polyurethane foam systems "will be a key interior safety enhancement over the next few years," said Backes.
 Demanding Under-The-Hood Requirements
 Under-the-hood components also may be on the verge of significant change, Backes reported, due to high temperatures in compact cars, and the potential introduction of alternative fuels, new types of engine and transmission oils and other changes.
 The excellent heat resistance and chemical resistance of several grades of Tedur PPS resin make these engineering thermoplastics well- suited for replacing metal and other materials in demanding under-the- hood applications.
 Synthetic rubbers also offer high heat resistance for the tough environment under-the-hood, the Miles vice president pointed out.
 -0- 2/24/92
 /CONTACT: Robert S. Walker of Miles (at the SAE International Congress & Exposition), 313-393-4449, or Martha Megill of Schorr, Howard and Megill, 212-935-5555, for Miles/ CO: Miles Inc. ST: Michigan, Pennsylvania IN: AUT SU: ECO


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Date:Feb 24, 1992
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