InterviewPC prospects strong for automotive applications

08 September 2009 17:38  [Source: ICIS news]

By Andy Brice

LONDON (ICIS news)--Polycarbonate (PC), the tough thermoplastic tipped for years to replace glass in automotive windscreens, is finally becoming car manufacturers’ material of choice, a company executive said on Tuesday.

Guenter Hilken, head of the polycarbonates business unit of German major Bayer MaterialScience, said that he expected the automotive sector to become one of the company's biggest outlets for PC in the coming years, overtaking CD and DVD production.

“We’ve seen a continuing trend towards PC use. This economic crisis and dramatic changes in the automotive industry will fuel additional development,” he said.

“Like everyone, we’ve seen the short-term impact on our business but the trend in the automotive industry towards innovation will require solutions using these materials.”

PC is increasingly being seen as an alternative to glass in windows and sunroofs. It is durable, virtually unbreakable, and lightweight - helping to reduce the weight of the vehicle and improve fuel efficiency and performance.

A symposium held a few weeks ago in Leverkusen, Germany, saw the shift towards PC use in vehicles win widespread support from all of Europe’s major OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

This strong message of support from the industry has left Bayer extremely optimistic about the future of the plastic.

Despite the slump in sales for the automotive sector during the current financial downturn, the need for innovation and efficiency will encourage its uptake, said Hilken.

PC was first used to manufacture headlamps some 10-12 years ago and it is now used by around 98% of the car industry, he said. One major OEM has suggested that sunroofs and roof modules would also be almost exclusively PC-based within the next decade.

Windscreens, however, may take a little longer because of issues regarding the rigidity of the car’s body and safety legislation.

Traditionally, the PC market has achieved demand growth of 7-8%/year globally but the current downturn and marked decline in some of the polymer’s key outlets such as CDs and DVDs, has had a significant impact.

Nevertheless, Bayer is expecting growth of 5-5.5%/year over the coming years - still pretty respectable compared with other polymers.

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By: Andy Brice
+44 20 8652 3214



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