Hutchinson advances 'plastics' alternative to EPDM door seal

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French automotive parts supplier Hutchinson SA has developed a ‘thermoplastic’ car door seal, which is 30-50% lighter than its EPDM equivalent.

The new profile is made up of several thermoplastic compounds, some of them vulcanised thermoplastics and some of them elastomers, said innovation manager Olivier Blottiau at the Total SA group company.

Two of these compounds have been developed specifically for the automotive sealing application by Hutchinson’s in-house compounding team, the company official said.

“We have our own thermoplastic brand called Vegaprene,” explained Blottiau. “We have a dedicated department for that, and if we don’t find the quality of materials we are looking for on the market, the team develops specific new grades.”

The new product has already received first customer orders by Jaguar Land Rover: the Velar model, launched by JLR in 2017, and i-pace, the electric SUV, to be retailed this year, are using the new seals.

And Tristan de Montlivault, body sealing systems, business development vice president at Hutchinson, expects growth in demand for the new product, which the company currently can manufactures at its plants in Europe, NAFTA, Asia and Brazil.

Hutchinson, said De Montlivault, is in the final stages purchasing and engineering discussions with two other OEMs, but did not elaborate further.

As well as reducing carbon-emissions from vehicles, the light-weight profile is also said to offer aesthetic-design advantages over EPDM.

According to De Montlivault, the ‘thermoplastic’ profiles can feature end-junctions, flock or grained surfaces and are colourable – a desirable option for OEMs.

Another advantage, according to Hutchinson, is recylability of the profiles manufactured with this technology, something that cannot be achieved with classical EPDM and metal insert parts.

In terms of costs, according to de Montlivault, depending on the required features, the new product is ‘only marginally’ more expensive than EPDM-based products.

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