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DSM in Outdoor Power Equipment

Sewing the seeds of success

The demands on agricultural and construction equipment are growing increasing fast - from ever tighter emissions standards, to improved long term durability and serviceability, to globalization.
Rear of tractor cab

Balancing the demands of the application with cost and styling considerations has led to an increased use of engineering thermoplastics – which is where our strong, tough, durable and lightweight materials give designers the ability to give their customers the products that meet their expectations.

As ever, it starts with the needs of the end user. For many of them, major farming and construction equipment represents a huge investment – and one that increasingly needs to be maximized.

For manufacturers, the quest continues to find materials that can contribute to the increasing sophistication and functionality of modern farming and construction equipment while being able to withstand the harsh demands of the application and keeping systems cost as low as possible.

Opportunities in plastic

The amount of applications where next-generation plastics can add value is on the rise: Those opportunities include structural parts, under the hood components, and interior and exterior visual surfaces.

In the case of harvesters and planters – Where high fatigue and abrasive wear can be an issue, plastics have been shown, in some cases to outperform metal.

Engineering thermoplastics also offer the advantage design freedom, corrosion resistance and weight reduction, when compared to metal, in many applications in the agricultural and construction equipment market.

Cab Interiors/Operator Stations

Today’s agricultural and construction equipment often includes a cab that’s on par with a high-end passenger car in terms of operator comfort and ergonomics.

However the harsh environment and demanding conditions are very different, and demand a product capable of withstanding extreme abuse. It’s this ability that makes our Akulon® polyamide 6 material a preferred product for these types of applications.

Akulon combines extreme durability, light weight, and good looks to provide a material that can stand up to tough treatment, and look good doing it.

Wear & friction applications

Agricultural and construction equipment must operate efficiently in some of the most demanding environments on earth; from the Arctic Circle to the deserts to the tropics.

In all these environments, one of the greatest challenges is minimizing the wear and friction on moving parts. Wear – and especially abrasive wear – is the cause of failure of many moving parts in agricultural and construction equipment.

Stanyl® polyamide 46 is best-in-class among engineering thermoplastics in its resistance to abrasion. Using Stanyl in the critical moving parts for agricultural and construction equipment can lead to extended life, improved performance, weight reduction, reduced emissions and lower total cost.

Walking the line: From metal to plastic

The agricultural and construction industries have a long, proud history, but like any industry the need to evolve. Replacing metal with superior plastics in Outdoor Power Equipment vehicles and equipment represents a major opportunity. So how do we identify new applications, parts and components with a potential for plastic? Simple: We walk the line…

“At DSM we have a passion for plastic but often our customers don't know enough about it,” says Mike Anderson of DSM. “Every day myself and my colleagues are asking ourselves the question of how we can integrate more plastic into tractors, harvesters, skip shifts and other Outdoor Power Equipment equipment in the farming sector.

“And one of the most effective ways is a Line Walk.”

Identifying applications

In a sophisticated and increasingly technology-oriented industry the Line Walk is incredibly simple. “We walk around a customer’s manufacturing plant, up and down the lines of finished vehicles and look in close detail at the areas where we think our performance materials could be substituted for metal, or indeed existing plastics,” explains Mike. It’s a slightly ‘old school’ approach, but according to Mike its highly effective.

“It’s one of the most practical ways for us to demonstrate very clearly to a customer how and why plastics are superior to metal for specific applications,” he says. We might look at a driving seat made of metal and then be able to apply application knowledge to suggest a plastic alternative.

Changing materials is of course a major step. “We’re in fortunate position at DSM in that we can bring proven research, knowledge and working applications from other related segments (like automotive for example where we are an undoubted leader) and show customers not only how the material adds value but also how it can be integrated into their production process.”

So what are the benefits?

“First and foremost, we know that products in this segment take a tremendous punishment and need to be tough and durable with great wear and friction properties. Many customers are surprised by just how robust the next-generation plastics can be,” says Mike.

“They are lighter than metal, which means less materials are needed and fuel consumption is lower – yet they are robust and operate well under stress and at extreme temperatures – especially in and around the engine. In fact our plastics like Stanyl® polyamide 6 can last up to three times longer than metals in some applications.”

Which is why more customers than ever are developing a passion for plastic.

Systems Go: How to make it work?

The benefits of polyamide (nylon) 6 fuel tank are hard to resist but we realize that switching materials is a big decision. The truth is that you can drop Akulon® Fuel Lock into your existing manufacturing process with very little extra work needed. DSM’s Mark Schireson Explains how…

So, how easy is it to move from HDPE to Akulon Fuel Lock?

With mold shrink values that overlap those of HDPE, Akulon Fuel Lock compounds have been successfully molded using injection molds, blow molding equipment, and hot plate and vibration welding equipment that were originally used for HDPE, eliminating the time and cost associated with re-tooling your operation.

How is Akulon Fuel Lock less expensive than HDPE?

Despite its durability and the fact its reduces evaporative emissions over 99% compared to HDPE, it’s equivalent in cost to most other permeation control technologies, and less expensive than post-processing treatments like fluorination and multi-layer co-extrusion, and doesn’t need any press-side additives or additional post-processing. It’s ready to use out of the box, creating fuel tanks in one process without the cost and logistical planning needed to ship tanks to a separate location for additional treatments.

How does Akulon Fuel Tank make compliance easier?

Once the process of making fuel tanks from the Akulon Fuel Lock is certified to applicable EPA and CARB standards, that’s it. The quality and extremely low permeation rates are guaranteed from there across all tanks produced from the material because the barrier performance is inherent in the plastic rather than batch dependent (like fluorinated HDPE).

What are the processing benefits?

Well, because it’s a polyamide-based material, Akulon Fuel Lock is stronger, more durable and highly permeation resistant than HDPE, which means we can redesign the fuel tank with significantly thinner walls which means using less material. But we can also reduce cycle time thanks to Akulon Fuel Lock’s faster recrystallization rate from the melt. The use of regrind Fuel Lock, from blow molding “lay-flat” and other scrap, may be used at very high levels without affecting processability, permeation characteristics or mechanical properties.

What testing have you conducted on Akulon Fuel Lock at DSM?

Fuel Lock is exceptionally resistant to chemical attack and extraction by all fuels and biofuels currently used or even considered for use in the future for fuel tanks. Our technical team has conducted exhaustive laboratory tests and subsequent validation, which shows that the use of ethanol as a significant bio-extender in gasoline doesn’t significantly affect permeation rates – or indeed impact strength.