Issue: Apr 2010


First-Ever Springs Molded from SABIC Innovative Plastics’ Ultra-Tough Ultem Resin



by James Hilton

Lee Spring, a leading global manufacturer of mechanical springs since 1918, has leaped past its competition with a totally new technology – LeeP™ plastic composite springs molded from SABIC Innovative Plastics’ Ultem* resin. Among the first springs ever made with high-performance, engineered plastic, LeeP compression springs provide critical advantages over traditional metal alloy springs, enabling this valued SABIC Innovative Plastics customer to expand its business for greater potential success. SABIC Innovative Plastics provided a range of specialized services for this project, including predictive analysis, material characterization and mold optimization, clearly illustrating how the company helps its customers succeed through its 75-years of materials technologies expertise and innovation.

Ultem resin gives the new springs a broad range of high performance properties including high strength-to-weight ratio, no magnetic interference, high corrosion resistance, and dielectric insulation for non-conductive applications.

“We specifically selected Ultem resin for LeeP because of its superior track record of success in the most demanding application areas vs. competitive materials,” said Al Mangels, Lee Spring president. “The resin exceeded our expectations at every step. It’s a truly exceptional product that, due to its tougher-than-tough balance of high-performance properties, performs better than any other thermoplastic. When all was said and done, we knew we had set a new industry standard, which, after all, was the goal.”

“Thermoplastics have rarely before been used in high-performance springs, so we were venturing into virtually uncharted territory with Lee Spring,” said Shawn Lee, product marketing manager, SABIC Innovative Plastics. “But through our strong chemical and materials expertise, and our technical customer support – ranging from initial calculations and predictive analyses to benchmarking how Ultem resin would perform in the new line of springs – we delivered another winner. Equally important, SABIC Innovative Plastics provided a valued customer a major competitive advantage and an opportunity to capture greater market share, which is what we work toward for all of our customers.”

Ultem Resin Opens New Opportunities

Lee Spring saw an untapped opportunity to expand its market reach with high-performance thermoplastic springs that approach the strength of metal without certain drawbacks. According to Steve Kempf, CEO of Lee Spring, “Our customers’ wish list includes strength, heat stability, corrosion resistance, non-magnetic properties, insulation, inertness, low flame toxicity and recyclability. What led us to Ultem resin was its excellent all-around performance combined with great strength. Ultem resin satisfies the full gamut of customer requirements in a single offering.”

For example, in marine applications, LeeP springs made with Ultem resin offer longer life due to resistance to salt water. For the medical device industry, LeeP springs avoid the cost of shielding, which is necessary for metal springs that can interfere with diagnostic imaging. Other market sectors that may benefit from the new springs are: medical products and processing equipment, pharmaceutical delivery devices, food processing and packaging equipment, aerospace products, electronics and electrical equipment, water purification systems and automotive interiors.

LeeP Plastic Composite Springs are stocked in a variety of standard sizes, each available in a “rainbow” of strengths formulated from Ultem resin containing various levels of fiber reinforcement.

Robust Performance and Much More

Spring rate (a function of shear modulus), cycle life (resistance to fatigue) and creep resistance are key performance measures for these compression springs. Ultem resin not only provides excellent results for these criteria, but also delivers other key properties:

· Mechanical stability up to 170C, allowing for use in a wide range of environments.

· High strength-to-weight ratio: Ultem resin is the highest strength amorphous resin in the market.

· High corrosion resistance and generally compatible with many chemicals including strong acids, weak bases, aromatics, and ketones.

· Non-magnetic to avoid interference with imaging and other Ferro-sensitive technologies.

· Dielectric insulating material suitable for non-conductive applications.

· Inert non-contaminating plastic composite protects product purity.

· Low flammability and toxicity ensure environmental safety.

· Recyclable and compliant with most global regulations including RoHS and REACH.

For more information on SABIC Innovative Plastics’ Ultem resins, please visit the company website at www.sabic-ip.com.

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