Automobile production will not lag, despite a disruption in the supply of an important polyamide, thanks to interim guidelines that will provide a method to analyze and test replacement materials.
The guidelines were developed by more than 30 companies, representing links in the supply chain of the polyamide called nylon 12, as well as automakers and the Automotive Industry Action Group, reports Rhoda Miel of Plastics News. Nylon 12 is a desirable material because it absorbs very little moisture; is resistant to chemicals, such as hydraulic fluids, oils, fuels, and solvents; dampens noise and vibration; is fatigue-resistant; retains its strength in cold temperatures; and is resistant to abrasion.
In the automotive industry, the resin is used in fuel lines, connectors, tubes, and other key components. Supplies of the material were reduced after a March 31 fire in Germany that destroyed the plant that made the feedstock cyclododecatriene (CDT). The plant also supplied CDT to other nylon 12 makers.
To alleviate concerns about the impact of the shortage, the guidelines were created to speed development of parts using alternate materials. Formerly called the design validation process and report, the guidelines state specific requirements for replacements in areas such as tensile strength and elongation, chemical resistance, fuel exposure, and other key performance areas. Miel further explains the need for the guidelines:
Molders and resin makers have offered a variety of potential replacements including other nylon materials and acetal and polyphenylene sulfide resins. But without a standard validation and testing system in place, approval of those replacements may have been delayed — which in turn could affect automakers’ assembly plants.
The guidelines should lower many production hurdles and simplify the process of bringing new resins to market. At least one automaker does not anticipate production problems because of nylon 12’s shortage.
“We don’t expect any disruption,” Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks says. “We’re pretty clean. That’s largely due to the fact that we have alternative materials that we can use. There had been some materials the team had previously tested, but didn’t use them at that time, so we had material already on the shelf that we could use.”
Source: “Auto industry Releases Guidelines for Nylon 12 Replacement,” Plastics News, 5/2/12
Image by Brian Snelson, used under its Creative Commons license.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.