Jäger Automobil-Technik GmbH is a well-known and top-ranking automotive supplier with multiple locations in Germany and sites in China and the U.S. It supplies molded parts and subassemblies to Audi AG, one of the world’s largest auto manufacturers.
Automakers and suppliers currently face challenges brought on by a record plunge in demand and an equally unprecedented rise in costs. At the same time, the level of quality that consumers expect has increased significantly. For these reasons, a material that can combine high productivity and lower production cost with elevated quality meets both OEM and supplier needs on multiple levels.
Several months ago, application development engineers at Jäger needed a special material for the “Case Mat Q5,” an elastomeric insert for the map case pocket of each door on the Audi Q5, a compact SUV.
While Jäger had developed interior TPE parts in the past, its development engineers and designers had since created a modified manufacturing technology that was more demanding on the elastomeric material. Based on a history of successful collaboration between the two companies, Jäger felt confident that PolyOne could provide a material solution that would meet both performance and cost targets.
The professionals at Jäger and PolyOne identified OnFlex-S TPE with UV stabilization as the material that would best fulfill cost and performance goals for this application. Based on styrenic block copolymers, this thermoplastic elastomer offers low temperature flexibility, good abrasion resistance, excellent colorability and UV resistance.
Each of these properties satisfies key requirements for the application, which includes both aesthetic and performance criteria. First, the products need to match each of the three interior colors that Audi offers for its Q5 (black, gray, and beige). Further, the mats must remain flexible during the winter and withstand normal use without showing signs of wear or scratches.
The team chose a grade that includes UV stabilization for improved weathering performance. While vehicle doors are typically exposed directly to sunlight only when open, the mats need protection from indirect UV rays that reach the car’s interior when the doors are closed.
Because it exhibits a higher flow rate than other SBC-based TPEs, OnFlex-S TPE reduces cycle times during injection molding, a feature that satisfies productivity objectives set by Jäger. A high melt flow rate for the solution reduces packing and cooling time requirements to improve overall molding cycle times. In addition, the high flow properties allow Jager to run the material in a TandemMold (a patented product of T/Mould GmbH), which effectively doubles production volume, as well as lowers energy and related production costs by up to 40%.
The material solution, PolyOne’s OnFlex-S EH UV TPE, offers an outstanding balance of processability, tactile qualities, UV resistance, abrasion resistance and colorability that capably satisfies the application’s requirements. This specific grade is based on styrene-ethylene butylene-styrene (SEBS), and its 80 Shore A hardness provides desirable toughness.
High-performance material = consumer satisfaction: Because OnFlex-S contains superior properties in the areas of tactile quality, abrasion resistance, toughness and UV stabilization, the map case mats exhibit greater durability, more gripping action, and less fading and cracking from sun exposure. The higher performance improves perceived quality among consumers and reduces replacement costs.
Ease of coloring = reduced scrap rate: Because it is readily colorable, the material helps Jäger meet Audi’s requirements for interior colors while generating less scrap due to off-spec or inconsistent color.
Improved flow = lower unit costs: High flow characteristics of the PolyOne solution in combination with a TandemMold result in doubled production volume for a 50% reduction in machine-related costs per part.
Faster processing = lower energy costs: Higher melt flow rates enable shorter injection molding cycles, resulting in reduced energy requirements.
According to project manager Steffen Burdorf, the chosen elastomer helped his team at Jäger deliver results on several fronts: appearance and quality improvements; productivity enhancements and manufacturing cost reductions; and added product longevity due to UV stabilization. Further, Burdorf noted that Jäger has realized system cost benefits by collaborating with PolyOne and implementing an optimum materials solution.