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Polycon working with soy-based polyols

Auto part manufacturer Polycon Industries, a division of Magna International, has been working for the past two yea...


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April 7, 2008 by Canadian Plastics

Auto part manufacturer Polycon Industries, a division of Magna International, has been working for the past two years with polyurethane supplier Dow Automotive to develop product and process knowledge for reaction injection molding using soy-based polyol.

“The increasing cost of petroleum-based polyol is driving our product cost higher,” Jim Moore, Polycon’s advanced technology manager, said in his presentation at the “Bioplastics 101” workshop held April 2 in Toronto by the Ontario BioAuto Council. “We decided to look at renewable bio-based feedstocks because of their potential for cost reduction and for theirimproved environmental footprint.”

In 2006, Polycon got together with Dow and launched a project to validate soy polyol chemistry in a painted exterior automotive application. Between November 2006 and September 2007, they ran trials of a soy-based polyol atvarious substitution levels in the manufacture of a RIM fascia at Polycon’s plant in Guelph, Ont. They found that using 50 per cent soy-based polyol in the polyol part of the polyol/isocyanate mix provided the best combination of physical properties and processability.

The fascia project has given Polycon confidence in the use of soy-based polyols, but Moore noted that injection molded polypropylene has taken over most of the fascia market. The next step for the Polycon/Dow team is to develop bio-based polyol formulations to address high flex modulus, large body panels for automotive, agricultural machinery and heavy equipment industries. Polycon is currently looking for an OEM partner to commercially develop soy-based solutions in those markets.

Polycon’s 680,000 sq.ft. plant in Guelph has six RIM presses, ten injectionmolding machines, nine steam molding machines for EPP foam, and threepainting lines. It has annual capacity for 5.5M pieces (3M painted facias, 2.5M energy absorbers).Dow Automotive, Midland, Mich., supplies the Renuva line of polyols made from seed oils – initially from soybeans.