A class of its own
With the new sprayed skin from Elastoskin, ELASTOGRAN offers a completely new level of quality and comfort for vehicle interiors
A vehicleÕs appeal is not decided by engine power alone. Design and comfort are just as in demand. In surveys on customer satisfaction, a high-quality interior, vehicle sportyness and technical finesse are high on the list. Reliable and constant quality is just as appreciated, and Ð not least Ð the effect of the materials used.
It is particularly in automotive manufacturing where the feel-good factor plays a major role in new, high-quality and cost-compatible materials and technologies. In the last few years customer requirements have risen considerably, which also encompass interior fittings and furnishings. Not just functionality, but style and value are the dominant criteria here. In opting for the new IMC sprayed skin (IMC = In Mould Coating) made of PU for instrument panels, the Elastogran customer BMW has acquired quite a special formative innovation.
In the case of PU, the freedom of design is simply boundless
PU has much to offer for surface technology for instrument panels: outstanding material properties and an enormous processing versatility. ÒWith our PU systems, we achieve a high-quality interior look and a particularly pleasant feelÓ, explains Dr. Thomas Bartz, Head of the European Business Unit Automotive at ELASTOGRAN. ÒThe sprayed skin made of Elastoskin¨ fulfils the demanding standards of interior design. Here the surface covering of the instrument panel has a considerable effect on the impression of quality and design and sets a trend for further application possibilities.Ó
The high-end surface covering technology is being used partially for the first time since April 2008 in the BMW 5 series. Karl Niebauer, Head of the pre-development of the technology for interiors at the Landshut factory, and responsible for process development for interiors and seating, describes why BMW has opted for the IMC sprayed skin: ÒUsing the PU IMC technology, we are also reinforcing our entire in-house competence, all the way from the design stage of surface coverings right up to the pre-assembly phaseÓ. Niebauer and his team work at the Landshut Innovation and Technology Centre (LITZ), where, among other things, plastic components for vehicle interiors and exteriors are manufactured. The technology centre is the interface between vehicle development and component manufacturing. This is where the specialists are based, who busy themselves with the development and application of innovative manufacturing procedures.
Premium material for the premium class
The special advantage of the Elastoskin sprayed skin is its convincing feel. Both its touch and its performance under pressure withstand the strictest criteria and provide for a soft, pleasant surface covering. This impression is supported by the foam backing used, which is the PU semi-hard system Elastoflex¨ E. ÒThe multilevel structure of the IMC sprayed skin allows for an exact definition of the characteristicsÓ explains Cord Schmalkuche, Head of development for compact PU systems. ÒThe PU skin considerably defines the mechanical characteristics.Ó And this is best suited to a premium class vehicle.
Efficient manufacturing, long life span, outstanding surface quality
Apart from the feel-good factor, the PU system also scores high in that it has very good demoldability, high resistance to ageing and an exact imageability of contours. Colour shading and the integration of additional construction units during the spraying process are also possible. Polychromatism can be realised during the IMC spraying procedure with the aid of masking, whereby the entire area of the second colour is covered during spraying. With the PU system the reactivity can also be accurately adjusted together with the operating stability of the material controlled within the tool. In this way, an even skin thickness is achieved over the whole surface.
The low emissions present a further advantage. ÒThe spraying process using an aromatic PU system clearly produces lower emissions than comparable procedures
Moreover, it offers outstanding surface quality and this during a high degree of freedom in the implementation of complex geometryÓ, as summarised by Schmalkuche when talking about the advantages of the Elastoskin system.
Even the economic aspects are right, because with the aromatic PU there are shorter formatting times and therefore the use of the parting agent can be clearly reduced. A long tool life span also has a favourable effect on the total costs.
Perfect technology for a high-class result
During the sprayed skin production, the PU is sprayed onto the pre-applied film of varnish in the open, temperate electrotype tool. The deposition occurs via a spray nozzle, which is mounted on a mixture head newly developed by Krauss Maffei. The mixture head has a crucial influence on the shape of the spraying cone. Both are adapted on a robot, which runs in an exactly defined deposition track over the electrotype tool. The colour-producing film of varnish and the PU are connected and an even level of sprayed skin surfacing is the result, which is then backfoamed.
Landshut is part of the production network of the BMW Group with 3,300 employees. This is where the component manufacturing for cylinder heads and crank cases made of light metal casting is located. Instrument panels, bumpers, plastic components for vehicle interiors and exteriors are produced here, as well as drive shafts and exchange engines. The components manufactured in Landshut are delivered to worldwide engine and automobile factories and are used in almost all vehicles of the BMW Group, from motorcycles to Formula 1 racing cars.