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Engineering Materials

Manufacturing durable, lightweight gears for demanding comfort actuator applications

Interior vehicle features that enhance the comfort of drivers and passengers increasingly influence customers’ purchasing decisions. To meet consumer expectations, comfort systems – including power seats, foldable mirrors, windows, sunroofs and adjustable steering wheels – require numerous comfort actuators. Demand for these parts is expected to play a significant role in driving the growth of the global automotive electric actuator market ­– which is expected to be worth $13.84 billion USD by 2027. As a result, automotive manufacturers need to work with actuator gear suppliers that are prepared to deliver robust parts in a timely manner. 

Hybrid and electric vehicles are designed to include smaller, more complex comfort actuators that require lightweight gears. Yet, polyoxymethylene (POM) and polyamide 66 (PA66), two popular material solutions for actuator gears, offer limited durability and temperature resistance when molded into thin parts. Gear load cycle testing verifies that higher heat and torque levels compromise the strength of both materials, which increases the likelihood of gear teeth melting or fracturing prematurely.

Selecting a lower performance material can also result in manufacturers spending more time adjusting gear designs. Although POM and PA66 can be reinforced, this process often results in oversized gears that take up more design space, and only fit actuator units with additional packaging room. As the comfort actuator demand accelerates, gear suppliers need to leverage thermoplastics that offer the durability, thermal resistance and design flexibility that customers demand. 

DSM’s Stanyl® PA46 is an industry-leading aliphatic polyamide that responds to the key challenges facing automotive parts manufacturers. Due to its outstanding mechanical strength at high temperatures, wear and friction properties, and flow behaviour, the material is ideal for producing lightweight, thin gears optimized for demanding automotive applications. Our portfolio of material solutions for actuator gears also includes cost-effective Akulon® PA66, dimensionally stable and tough EcoPaXX® PA410, and highly stiff and creep-resistant ForTii® PPA grades well-suited for parts with special requirements.

Outperforming POM and PA66

Load cycle and thermal resistance testing verifies that Stanyl PA46 is best suited for gears with stringent torque, speed and temperature resistance needs – in either grease lubricated or dry-running conditions. Gears made from Stanyl PA46 consistently demonstrate up to 25-50% higher torque capacity compared to PA66 and POM competitors. Thermal testing reveals that Stanyl PA46 parts heated to 140°C are 45% stronger than parts made from PA66, and 150% stronger than parts made from POM heated to the same temperature. This behaviour maximizes the reliability of actuator gears for applications exposed to higher heat levels, such as worm gears that generate high internal frictional heat levels.

Delivering greater cost savings

Numerous gear suppliers leverage Stanyl PA46 as a replacement for metal and polyetheretherketone (PEEK) solutions, as the material is easier to process and less expensive. Stanyl PA46 offers additional long-term cost-savings since its mechanical performance often does not need expensive wear and friction or carbon fiber optimizers. Compared to carbon-filled PA66 and polytetrafluoroethylene-reinforced (PTFE) PPA, Stanyl PA46 demonstrates up to 20-60% higher torque capacity in a 130°C environment. This helps suppliers spend less time refining gear designs, so they can deliver high-quality final parts faster.   

With more than 20 years’ use in automotive manufacturing, Stanyl PA46 is trusted by OEMs, Tier 1s, and part suppliers worldwide. Each year, the material is used to produce nearly 100 million gears installed in 40 million actuators applied to comfort, engine, cooling and powertrain systems.

To ensure our customers’ needs are always met, we provide hands-on material, design and application expertise while working closely with industry leaders to understand their evolving material requirements. As a result, our customers are confident that the products they supply strengthen their brand’s reputation and empower them to secure new business.  

Contact us today or visit Plastics Finder to learn more. 

Published on

21 September 2021

Tags

  • Blog
  • Automotive
  • Car interior
  • Stanyl

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adnan Hasanovic

Technical Manager

Adnan Hasanovic is technical manager for gear actuators at DSM. In this global role, he focuses on tribological applications, such as gears and bushings, as well as structural applications for gear housings and covers. Adnan also supports global DEP activities in existing and new application areas. He joined DSM after he completed studies of mechanical engineering. Before joining DSM, Adnan worked as application development engineer and CAE engineer.

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