Friedrichshafen, Germany — Lanxess AG is targeting electrically charged vehicles as a key growth area as the company prepares for future mobility solutions.
While maintaining that internal combustion engines will co-exist with electric vehicles "for quite some time," the German specialty chemicals company has noted "a major change" currently faced by the automotive industry.
These changes include electrified drive technologies, advancing digitalisation and networking and the trend towards driver assistance and autonomous driving, Jan Bender, head of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa region in the high performance materials business unit said at Fakuma in Friedrichshafen.
With the use of thermoplastics in vehicle manufacture changing, parts will have to meet new requirements, such as high thermal conductivity for heat dissipation, flame retardancy, electromagnetically shielding properties or high tracking resistance are required.
For Lanxess, the focus will be on components for the e-powertrain and electrical infrastructure.
The company expects to tap its polyamide 6 and 6/6 and polybutylene terephthalate compounds, which according to Bender "have great application potential in the electrified and autonomous automotive of the future."
At Fakuma this year, Lanxess is presenting its new PA6 Durethan performance product range for the first time.
The PA6 grades are several times more resistant to fatigue under pulsating loads than standard products with the same glass fiber content.
"Among other things, they meet the increasing requirements for dynamic long-term durability of plastic engine compartment parts," Bender explained.
"A wide array of designs" can be realised using the company's thermoplastics to save weight without losing functionality and keeping mechanical properties like stiffness, Bender said.
"More automation in cars [means] more electrical equipment that emits more heat. Our materials offer improved thermal conductivity properties and increase safety. Next to that we are working on materials that offer magnetic shielding to protect the sensitive electronic systems from rising electromagnetic radiation," Bender added.
However, one outstanding challenge of the new mobility trends is the absence of "uniform standards and norms" for many electric mobility and autonomous driving applications.
To address that, Lanxess is working with customers to define these standards. One current challenge is that for many applications of electric mobility and autonomous driving, the requirements have not yet been defined or are under discussion, with requirements changing depending on the country, automaker or supplier.
Lightweighting issues extend beyond the auto industry.
A key technology that Lanxess believes will advance its lightweighting ambitions is the continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRT) technology in which it has been investing over the last six years.
At Fakuma this year, Lanxess is highlighting the technology, which offers lightweight materials that are easy to process.
Since the acquisition of Bond-Laminates GmbH and its CFRT technology in 2012, Lanxess has now scaled up production of its Tepex-branded CFRT composites, which it is supplying to the automotive, consumer electronics and sports industries.
The material can be used in various parts of a car, including front ends, seat shells, door modules and underbody protection systems. Additionally Tepex can support new battery components in electric cars, including housings, with its strength/weight ration.
With rising demand, Bender said, Lanxess is investing at its site in Brilon, Germany, to build a new production hall and new production lines for Tepex materials with an investment in the single-digit-million-euro range.
The investments don't stop there. Since announcing plans to shed its synthetic rubber arm, Arlanxeo, Lanxess is aiming to become a leading mid-size speciality chemicals company.
The company currently has several investment projects running in Europe.
Last year, it upgraded its central organic pilot plant in Leverkusen, Germany, and announced a €100m investment package for capacity expansions for several chemical intermediates mainly at its German facilities. The expansion project is scheduled for completion by 2020.
In performance plastics specifically, the company unveiled a project to build a compounding facility at its Krefeld site in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in September.
The investment costs of the new facility will run into "mid double-digit million euros" and start up is scheduled for the second half of 2019.
The site will produce Durethan and Pocan engineering plastics, which are used primarily in the automotive as well as the electrical and electronics industries. In addition, the investment will see the construction of a new warehouse and a silo facility at the site.
In China, Lanxess is progressing with the building of a new compounding plant to produce up to 25,000 tonnes of Durethan- and Pocan-branded high-tech plastics.