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Composites helping industry to “reinvent itself”

An increasing global focus on reducing energy costs and the environmental impact of motor vehicles is creating challenges – and providing opportunities – for developers and suppliers of composite materials. 

One of the leaders in the field of specialty chemicals and materials is Columbus, Ohio-based Momentive. Momentive has been serving automotive OEMs and their suppliers for more than 100 years with well-known brands including Durite* and Cellobond* phenolic resins, Bakelite* thermoset resins and engineering materials, Epikote* epoxy resins, Cardura* glycidyl esters used in clear coats, and a variety of other high-performance resins and materials. 

The company supplies tailored materials to global industries and end markets, including the automotive sector. Through its operating companies, Momentive Specialty Chemicals and Momentive Performance Materials, Momen¬tive provides a wide range of specialty materi¬als used in more than 50 applications by the automotive industry. 

“Everywhere you look on the inside and outside of today’s automobiles, you’ll find Momentive. From the engine block to the brake pads, from the coatings to the frame, our specialty resins and advanced materials enable safer, stronger, lighter weight, more durable and environmentally suitable components,” says the company. Momentive also makes high performance gels and encapsulants to protect sensitive electronics, engineering materials for under-hood parts, high transparency LED lenses, resins and additives for seating, interiors and tires, various sealing applications and more,” says the company. 

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Craig Morrison, chairman and CEO of Momentive to tell us about his company’s automotive applications. 

Morrison: Momentive helps automotive manufacturers with a wide range of applications. These include industry- leading Bakelite thermoset resins for better-wearing brake linings and pads, and Bakelite engineering materials for under-hood parts that maintain their outstanding performance under extreme low and high temperatures partly in combination with aggressive media contact. The company also has a strong market position in automotive coatings where we work with virtually all major paint producers. Cardura glycidyl esters are building blocks that improve the flow and leveling of automotive coatings, and make possible the production of clear coats with superior appearance. Our Epikote epoxy resins are critical to the electro-coat that protects the body from corrosion, and our silicone hardcoats improve the clarity and useful life of headlight lenses. Our NXT* silanes enable tire producers to launch new products with improved rolling resistance and wet traction, meeting demanding safety and fuel efficiency requirements. We also serve this segment with tire cord adhesion promoters and reinforcing resins that enhance the durability and safety of tires. Our products are used in practically all segments of the automotive market. Today, Momentive’s automotive industry revenue is around $500 million a year. 

AI: Tell us about your company’s global expansion plans – what makes countries in Asia and South America attractive destinations for Momentive? 

Morrison: As a key supplier to the automotive industry, it is critical that we provide a very high security of supply. Early in October 2011, we announced that our epoxy business has partnered with Brenntag as its distributor in South America to shorten lead times. Brenntag offers our extensive line of Epi-Rez* Waterborne Resins, Epikure* Curing Agents for waterborne systems, Epon* Resins and Heloxy* modifiers.
The rapid growth of the automotive markets in China and India are driving strong demand for our specialty products, and we anticipate that growth will continue. Therefore, Momentive is also expanding its overseas production capacity to have a short lead time to these growth markets. 

In May, Momentive Specialty Chemicals and UPC Technology Corporation, a leading China-based producer of specialty chemicals, announced the formation of a joint venture to build a manufacturing plant in China that will produce specialty phenolic resins. The new plant will produce a full range of specialty novolac and resole phenolic resins used in a diverse range of applications including refractories, friction and abrasives. This project in Zhenjiang will follow on the heels of Momentive’s new Cardura glycidyl esters plant recently commissioned in Onsan, Korea. Momentive is also expanding a silicones applications development center in Seoul, Korea, its silicones technical center in Bangalore, India, and global capacity for specialty silanes, to meet growing marketplace demand. 

Automotive Industries also spoke to Joseph Bevilaqua, EVP & president of Momentive’s Epoxy, Phenolic & Coatings Division, and asked what automotive-related technologies Momentive will be launching soon. 

Bevilaqua: The automotive industry is facing the challenge of continuing to improve cars so they are more fuel-efficient, safer, and have less impact on the environment. The industry has to reinvent itself and this offers Momentive some great opportunities.
Any electric or fuel-efficient car needs to be designed with the objective to reduce weight. One of the most exciting developments in the automotive industry for Momentive is the introduction of composite materials for structural applications in the car body and frame. Carbon fiber/epoxy composites are the best option to combine high strength with light weight for increased fuel efficiency. In the past, the production processes for carbon fiber/epoxy composites were relatively slow and expensive, so their use was limited to a small number of high end sports cars. This is changing.
As the market leader in the wind energy sector Momentive has gained significant insight in developing the epoxy/carbon and glass composites that have enabled the production of blades as long as 68+ meters. We’re bringing this experience to bear on the mass production of carbon/epoxy parts and panels for the automotive industry.
Our R&D teams have developed innovative epoxy systems that are offering breakthroughs in reducing production cycle times. We’ve also set up an advanced application team to develop complete solutions in partnership with industry co-suppliers. These partnerships are critical for the fast introduction of structural composites in mass produced vehicles. 

The growth of high performance engineering materials is also connected to the weight reduction trend. Parts made from long glass filled Bakelite thermoset resins are up to 30-40% lighter compared to aluminum and offer very good mechanical and wear properties, at temperatures up to 160°C. Thermoplastic materials cannot be used under these harsh conditions, except for engineering grades which are significantly more expensive. Momentive molding compounds can be injection molded into complex shapes, making it possible to integrate functionality and enabling the assembled system, such as a water or fuel pump, to be more compact. Our engineers work together with molders in designing the parts and in selecting the best grades and process conditions. 

AI: How focused is Momentive on the auto industry? 

Bevilaqua: The Automotive Industry is a focus industry segment of Momentive. We continue to see strong growth driven by the demand for safer and environmentally advanced vehicles, supported by our portfolio of science-based innovations and developed together with and for the key suppliers and OEMs in automotive.


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