One-component mechanically foamed gaskets give non-stop production
Report by Liz White.
Foam-in place gaskets were on offer from several suppliers at the K2010 event, but Japanese producer Braking Sunstar thinks its Penguin one-component polyurethane foams, made at the K show using Ceracon’s robotic dispensing equipment, have stolen a march on the competition.
Sunstar’s mechanically-foamed 1K Penguin material and Foamply applications process give very high productivity – much better than two-part, chemically foamed materials and processes, claimed Steven Hoof, manager of Sunstar’s chemicals business in Europe.
“It’s a very simple process,” he said, explaining that, “This is why we show equipment running, making gaskets. This is why we run it throughout the day, which for our competitors is very difficult.
Two-component foaming technology has been on the market for about 30 years. It makes foam by mixing the components including blowing agent, and creating a gas at atmospheric pressure, Hoof said in a 28 Oct interview during K2010, held 27 Oct- 3 Nov in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Hoof described this chemical process as “very inconsistent,” pointing out that it depends on many environmental issues: “temperature of the part, atmospheric pressure, chemical reaction, temperature of the components.”
As a result, he said, productivity drops to 85% with the other15% needed to services or clean the equipment. “It depends on the operator to keep it running,” he said.
“In our case,” Hoof said, “we do not have this chemical process, we have no reactive material in the process. We do not have to do any purging,” and parts can be made 24 hours/day.
Sunstar developed the Penguin technology about 15 years ago in Japan, when the company was looking for new application. It recognised that “the standard range of adhesive and sealants is a commodity business,” and that means competition is high, while prices are low and dropping further. So Sunstar was, “looking for advance products, innovative products and we detected that this FIPG market would be growing quickly in the future,” Hoof explained.
As well as several special formulations – which Sunstar does not divulge details of ‑ the foaming process mechanically mixes air into a one-component paste-like material.
In japan, Sunstar sells both the application technology and material, while in Europe, it has licensed German company, Cerecon to supply the gasket-application technology.
Sunstar has been in Europe with this technology for about eight year now, Hoof said. For this FIPG material, there are a couple of competitors, but they are not using the Penguin materials and Hoof commented that: “The market is very big, the competitors are very small.”
Asked about the variety of uses, Hoof said basically supply to automotive OEMs is “80% of our market, and 20% is non-automotive.”
The automotive uses cover a wide range. “We can use it in tail-lights, we can use it in door-module technology, we can use it for HVAC – heating, ventilation air conditioning, he noted. “In gaskets you have about 40-50 potential applications per car,” he said.
These applications use Sunstar’s whole range of gasket materials and include hand applied gaskets, which can be made using 2-k FIPG technology or the 1-K material.
In Japan, Sunstar makes both material and equipment and sells both across Asia. In Europe, “Cerecon has the licence to build the equipment to our specification,” with joint marketing and sales, Hoof said.
Braking Sunstar’s European operations are based in Italy, with a subsidiary in Germany.
Hoof claims the business is “very strong in Europe, and we are starting to get stronger in the US, where we started to implement this technology two years ago. “
Susnstar has a big advantage in North America in that, “we already have very, very strong contact with the Japanese car makers,” through relationship and contact sin Japan, Hoof emphasised.
“And for 20 years we have had subsidiaries in the US, dealing with our commodity business,” which are now adding FIPG products.
Sunstar also offers two-component foams in polyurethane and epoxy resins.
Hoof said the company keeps its Penguin formulations to a minimum: “We try to do only one super products and sell it for everything.
“Everybody would like to have a one-component material… it is the top target.” Very quick cure, and an extremely long shelf-life are vital, but “When you would like it to react you want instant reaction, Hoof said.
“Everyone is looking for it, we are very close,” Hoof said.