Asahi Kasei Corporation has unveiled development of a PA Foam, a foam bead material based on polyamide – the first of its kind worldwide. This foam bead is considered to be perfect for noise reduction and lightweight applications in the automotive industry. The company is one of only four fully integrated polyamide manufacturers worldwide and is able to produce PA 6.6 completely from monomer to compound. With this product, Asahi Kasei is able to successfully offer solutions for various challenges in the automotive industry including stiffness, mechanical strength and heat resistance for use in structural lightweight applications of cars and noise reduction. Explaining about the unprecedented high heat resistance and other properties of the PA Foam, Takauji Namatame, Senior Manager of the Corporate R&D Division at Asahi Kasei Europe says, “In Europe, where environmental awareness is strong, the need for lightweight applications is expected to further increase in the future, especially in the automotive industry. Our foam opens new doors for applications, which at the same time require lightweight and heat resistance.” The noise reduction properties resulting from the special shape of the beads will meet the growing demand regarding applications that reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), added Takauji.
The PA Foam comes with various properties of polyamide like resistance to heat, chemical, and oil besides having significant rigidity or noise-reducing quality – depending on the shape of the beads. The PA Foam that consists of round-shaped beads has a strong rigidity, making it a promising alternative material for aluminum and metal in structural applications and for use in insulators, ducts, spacers or other lightweight parts of the battery case of electrified vehicles. In addition to the typical polyamide properties, the C-or macaroni-shaped PA Foam provides noise insulation. The possible applications can be found everywhere around the car especially the engine compartment, where the material can unfold its unique qualities. It can also be used for engine covers to make them lightweight, significantly reduce the radiating engine noise to make the car quieter and increase the level of comfort inside the car.
With the rising popularity of car-sharing and the expected introduction of autonomous driving, the automotive interior is becoming more and more important as a space of relaxation and comfort. The PA Foam can significantly contribute to the quality of this new in-vehicle living space by not only insulating or reducing the noise radiating from the car but also reduce noise coming from the outside. In addition to the roof and bonnet, other possible applications could be the seat and floor structure of the car.Foam beads made of polyamide can be processed in a steam molding process on standard polystyrene molding equipment. Additionally, a significant reduction of resin for the production process can be achieved, contributing to an overall cost reduction.
It is important to understand that the disruptive trend of connected autonomous shared electrified (CASE) is increasing the innovation pressure on the automotive industry to new heights. The European Union (EU) legislation regarding the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is additionally pushing the demand for new and innovative lightweight materials as a substitute for metal and aluminum parts. In the tightening of noise regulations, the United Nations (UN) in its regulations issued in 2016 mentions that the noise level emitted outside must be continuously reduced in newly manufactured vehicles. Plastics and foams with their broad range of properties will become a key in this field, contributing to a reduction of CO2 emissions of conventional passenger cars with a combustion engine and longer driving distance of electrified cars.