Two thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) grades from Huntsman are helping to transform the transportation of automotive parts, ensuring that expensive vehicle components arrive at their destination damage free and clean – and saving original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and car makers significant amounts of time and money.
PolyFlex Products (PFP), a US-based manufacturer of specialist dunnage, is using two of Huntsman’s abrasion resistant IROGRAN and AVALON TPU grades to boost the performance and longevity of its custom trays, containers, nests and racks. Switching to TPU has helped PFP ensure the longevity of its dunnage – typically around five years. It has also reduced incidents of dunnage damage caused by atypical usage.
Dunnage is used to stabilize products in transit. In its most basic form it bulks out shipping containers and stops boxes and crates moving around. PFP operates at the more technical end of the dunnage spectrum, producing complex packaging systems, tailor made to fit specific products. For the automotive industry, this includes bespoke solutions that fit securely around engines, gear transmissions, axles, windshields and body panels – protecting them against damage and breakages, which are inherent with truck, rail and sea shipments.
PFP has produced custom dunnage for automotive OEMs for many years. The business creates plastic and rubber parts, which work in conjunction with metal racks that are stacked inside road, rail and sea containers. Historically, PFP used polypropylene to create its automotive dunnage but the material in question lacked the lasting wear properties required. Over time, as sharp heavy components were unpacked repeatedly, the dunnage became prone to splitting and tearing.
Searching for a better solution, PFP started using TPU. Assisted by Major Polymers, a distributor of Huntsman TPU, the business picked two abrasion resistant TPU grades from Huntsman, each with a different shore hardness: 90A for heavy components; and 60D for parts that have to be released by sliding. Using the new materials, PFP quickly discovered how durable they were.
Furthermore, TPU offers low temperature resistance, maintaining the same physical properties even at sub-zero temperatures. This is important in northern US, States, such as Michigan, which are renowned for car manufacture and for long, cold winters. Even in freezing conditions, TPU can retain its flexibility – helping to preserve ride quality.
Working with Major Polymers and Huntsman, PFP has been able to expand the use of TPU across a much broader range of dunnage applications. Recently, the business has begun trialing a third type of TPU for the transportation of automotive components. Ken Bylo, Vice President at PolyFlex Products, said: “The use of TPU in automotive dunnage has been growing steadily over the last decade. We were one of the first adopters of this material for this purpose – and with help from Major Polymers we are extending its role. It’s taken a while for the wider automotive industry to wake up to the benefits of TPU – but there is now a real shift in the sector.”
“OEMs are now proactively asking for TPU-based solutions. Initially, there were some concerns about the extra up-front investment required; TPU is typically more expensive – but there is a clear return on investment in terms of longevity as well as numerous other benefits. Whether transporting small components or 800lb parts, TPU is becoming the ‘go to’ dunnage material for our automotive customers. We love it because of its durability and our customers trust it to keep their components pristine en route to assembly plants.”
Ken Scarpace, President at Major Polymers, said: “PFP’s switch to TPU was straightforward thanks to the technical support we provided in tandem with Huntsman. The key challenge was helping PFP produce larger dunnage parts using a material that responds differently to other kinds of plastic and rubber. With input from the TPU team at Huntsman we were able to offer advice that ensured a smooth transition. We are delighted that PFP and its customers have been so impressed with the results and that the team are now looking at the use of additional grades in different dunnage applications.”
Eric M. Holdt, Americas Distribution Sales Manager at Huntsman, said: “Our polyurethane products and systems are used throughout the automotive industry in the production of car parts – from seating foam and acoustic insulation to under bonnet cables and soft touch interior components. It’s fitting therefore that our IROGRAN and AVALON grades are now also adding value further down the car production supply chain.”