Complete Ultramid SI polyamide family for the furniture industry
Presentation by Dr. Andreas Schobel
Business Development Universal
Engineering Plastics Europe
BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany
Esthetics, durability, stability and a wide array of options for surface design: these are all reasons why the furniture industry, and especially chair manufacturers, are turning more and more often to plastics as their material of choice. Upon the occasion of the K 2013 plastics trade fair, BASF will be showcasing a portfolio of four special types of the engineering plastic Ultramid® that go by the name Ultramid SI (SI = surface improved). Nicknamed “furniture Ultramid”, they are geared to the needs of the furniture sector. These plastics combine the technical properties that are typical of polyamides with a high-quality surface appearance, thus meeting the requirements of designers and developers of furnishings. One of the first serially produced items made of the new Ultramid SI series is the MOVYis3 office swivel chair, which BASF developed in collaboration with the furniture manufacturer Interstuhl.
From the very start, BASF has contributed to shaping the trend towards using plastics in the furniture industry. The most well-known example nowadays is the MYTO chair created by renowned designer Konstantin Grcic and the Italian furniture maker Plank together with BASF. This chair was originally made of the easy-flowing engineering plastic Ultradur® High Speed and it was presented to the public for the first time in 2007. This piece of furniture, which received a great deal of attention, was the starting point for numerous follow-up projects and for the development of Ultramid SI, the first polyamide specially optimized to meet the needs of the furniture industry.
Rounded-off product line
This individual product has now evolved into a complete material family whose members live up to the demands made by creators of high-end design products. All four combine high surface quality with the excellent mechanical and chemical properties of this class of materials. Depending on the task at hand, manufacturers can choose from among four Ultramid SI grades. Aside from the surface-improved Ultramid B3EG4 SI, which is reinforced with 20 percent glass fibers, two other variants were developed for this purpose, namely, Ultramid B3EG6 SI containing 30 percent, and Ultramid B3EG10 SI reinforced with 50 percent glass fibers. These types were joined by a fourth variant, Ultramid B3U40G4 SI. This is a flame-retardant version since the requirements made of chairs are very high, particularly in seating furniture used in public places such as airport terminals. All four Ultramid SI grades not only have a good surface quality but are also function-oriented. For instance, highly filled Ultramid B3EG10 SI unites high strength and stiffness with esthetic surfaces. Combining these features, which would seem hardly compatible at first glance, called for a balancing act when it came to the development technology. Here, the convergence of extensive formulation know-how and optimization of the polymer yielded the envisaged extraordinary properties of the Ultramid SI products.
Comprehensive knowledge in all aspects of fire-proofing
When it comes to designing chairs to be used in public buildings, BASF – thanks to its many years of experience with fire-retardant plastics – has a lot to offer chair manufacturers. At its own accredited testing facility for fireproof materials, BASF can conduct customer-specific testing, which comes in handy in view of the very strict requirements that apply to flame-retardant chairs.
The standard tests for chairs include two actual-practice tests: setting fire to a paper cushion placed on the seat of the chair and igniting a “Crib 5” test specimen, which is a stacked structure of 20 standardized wooden sticks that are placed on the seat of the chair, soaked with 1.5 cubic centimetre of propanol and then ignited. These tests are considered to have been successfully passed if the open flames have become extinguished at the latest after ten minutes and if concealed signs of fire such as glowing or smoke formation have come to an end at the latest after 60 minutes. Seat shells made of the flame-retardant, Ultramid B3U40G4 SI perform very well in these tests. Light colors are possible since this product can do without red phosphorus. The smoke density is very low due to the absence of halogens.
Joint furniture design at the designfabrik
The new Ultramid SI grades are primarily earmarked for chairs, other pieces of furniture and design objects that call for technically sophisticated materials with outstanding esthetic appeal. Since the furniture industry is often entering new territory with its endeavors, BASF provides in-depth assistance in product development and material substitution. As a strategic partner of the design-oriented sectors, BASF is offering not only fire-protection studies and mechanical testing, but also far more comprehensive service packages.
For instance, when developing new products, designers can consult with the service platform designfabrik®. Teams made up of engineers and designers help with issues involving plastic-oriented designs, and give advice on processing methods and tools, on surfaces as well as form and function. Coloring is another important aspect. All four Ultramid SI grades can be obtained in an un-dyed version and in a brilliant black color. Masterbatches that are harmonized with the material in question are available for coloration purposes from the Cologne-based BASF Color Solutions GmbH. There is a direct link between coloring and UV-resistance, both of which can be adapted to customers’ requirements. Thanks to its expertise in materials, BASF can help designers as well as brand-name manufacturers to meet high demands.
Product development with BASF’s own simulation
A wide array of development projects together with customers have consistently demonstrated the need for design calculation expertise for chairs and their plastic components. This holds true for the processing of the material as well as for the design of the part. In order to devise optimal designs in a joint undertaking with customers, BASF turns to Ultrasim®, its simulation tool for shrinkage and warpage analyses. The behavior of the part can also be simulated with Ultrasim. For example, BASF experts can examine the deformation behavior as well as the stiffness and strength of the final product. The cooperation between BASF and furniture manufacturer Interstuhl gave birth to the office swivel chair “MOVYis3”. Here, the backrest, as one of the essential parts, has to live up to high expectations. Aside from the requisite upscale look of the surfaces, which is attained during production without the need for any rework, the focus is also on creating a sleek part with sufficient strength. Thanks to the close cooperation between designers and engineers of both companies, all of these ambitious goals were reached. In this process, numerous simulations served to evaluate and adapt the component design. Finally, the choice fell upon Ultramid B3EG4 SI, a material that fully meets the mechanical as well as esthetic requirements.
BASF experts also turned to the Ultrasim simulation tool in order to provide a tailor-made solution for the design of the universal “A-chair” for greater areas made by the Brunner company. The essential design feature of this chair is the very slender legs of the lower frame. Here, too, stiffness, as well as shrinkage and warpage analyses allowed the creation of an optimal geometry. The very high mechanical loads as well as the requirements made of the surface quality of this chair steered the choice of material towards Ultramid B3EG10 SI.
Information on Ultramid® from BASF: firstname.lastname@example.org
or under telephone number +49 (0) 621 60 78780.
Press photo: At www.basf.com/pressphoto-database, keyword „plastics“ or search term „Ultramid“. Text and photo are also available in BASF’s plastics press releases archive: www.basf.de/plastics/pressreleases