Shahrzad Pourriahi recently caught up with Bjorn Nelson, technical service manager at Zeon Europe, about current developments in the automotive sealing products market and the company's priorities for the year ahead.
What are the drivers for growth in the automotive market right now?
Nelson: Zeon sees growth in the automotive sector coming from combined platforms, downsizing and emission reductions. All these points are resulting in tougher specifications from the OEMs, where standard elastomers are replaced more and more with specialty grades. With increased electrification, we see an increased demand in sealing for batteries and transmission applications.
What are the other top priorities for the company starting into 2018?
Nelson: Zeon is steadily updating forecasts of demand and adapting the capacity accordingly. Continuously we are working hard to always have sufficient material available to supply the steadily increasing demand.
Which sealing material technologies is Zeon currently focused on?
Nelson: For our product line hydrogenated nitrile rubber (HNBR) our focus at the moment is on sealing applications for coolant and oil to improve the life time and/or heat resistance.
Zetpol HNBR, with its excellent resistance to engine oils and coolants, has long been a choice for engine sealing components.
However, recent trends in engine cooling have resulted in the use of more aggressive coolant technologies and higher temperature performance requirements.
Service temperatures have increased from past-levels of 125°C to up to 150°C in some cases, together with low temperature requirements as low as -40°C.
This trend has challenged the performance capabilities of HNBR compounds and in some cases, HNBR compounds have the potential to be replaced by more expensive fluoroelastomers and others.
This option is not favored by car manufacturers due to the higher cost implications.
In terms of materials development, have there been any significant advancements within the past 12 months?
Nelson: High-performance HNBR (HP-Zetpol), developed by Zeon, is a new hydrogenated nitrile rubber based on next-generation technology. This material contains a unique polymer architecture and a specific cure site monomer in the polymer chain.
Zeon recently has developed a new series of compounds for sealing applications. These offer improvements in heat resistance and greatly improved compression set resistance compared to conventional peroxide-cured HNBR.
This improvement in compression-set resistance is magnified over longer aging times and especially in thin cross-sectioned articles such as O-rings, seals and gaskets.
This makes HP-Zetpol a material of choice for sealing applications requiring resistance to heat, oil, coolant/water as well as other automotive service fluids, including for low-temperature flexibility requirements as low as minus 40°C.
Any other interesting new products on the slate?
Nelson: Zeon's HT-ACM technology has long proven its performance in automotive sealing applications in various OEM platforms. High temperature resistance up to 180°C combined with excellent oil resistance are the key properties of seals and gaskets made from these polymers.
The selection of HT-ACM grades, however, has always been a choice between either optimum high temperature resistance or a reasonable low temperature flexibility.
In order to fill the gap in the sealing and gasket market, Zeon has recently developed a new grade to balance those property requirements. HyTemp H570 is able to maintain the maximum high temperature resistance of HT-ACM whilst at the same time improving low temperature performance.
This new grade opens potential opportunities for HT-ACM elastomers to meet the requirements for demanding low temperature applications, such as those seen in Nordic conditions.