_ thought leadership sponsored by victrex
A sweet spot in a challenging environment
It is well known that the automotive industry has entered an era of unprecedented change. New mobility concepts are on their way, such as autonomous cars, ride hailing and connected cars. OEMs and Tiers are pushing the envelope entering new business models in future mobility concepts. Environmental legislation is driving electrification and engine downsizing. These are just some of the factors that are demanding more capable, higher-performing and more innovative automotive solutions that are, at the same time, cost-effective. High-performance polymers have gained an important role to play in meeting these goals.
PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) polymer, for instance, is regarded as one of the highest-performing thermoplastics in the world. PEEK was invented 40 years ago and was soon recognised as a new material of enormous potential. Its commercialisation was then undertaken by Victrex and since then the company has often been first in replacing metals with VICTREX™ PEEK in demanding applications across multiple industries. In automotive, this particularly includes areas with a combination of high temperatures, high loads and aggressive chemicals, for example in transmissions, engines and braking systems.
Continuous development on the part of Victrex has resulted in material and technology innovations that have revolutionised the use of PAEK (PolyArylEtherKetone) polymers and pushed the boundaries of materials possibilities.
VICTREX HPG Mass Balance Gears (C) AAM
A solutions-oriented approach
To create value for its customers, Victrex strives to develop PAEK solutions based on megatrends and expected needs of the industry – e.g. by looking at tomorrow’s challenges across the entire field of mobility, and by selectively moving further downstream into forms and parts, i.e. APTIV™ film for use in electrical insulation spaces or HPG™ gears for demanding engine applications
While Victrex’s materials solutions for automotive may typically involve small components, they can have, nevertheless, a considerable impact. Continuous innovation that addresses improvement in application performance is an integral part of their strategy. Using its in-depth material processing and application know-how, the company works with its customers through each step of the value chain, to help solve current challenges and improve cost-effectiveness. This in turn helps customers bring their products to market faster.
Gearing up for tomorrow with PEEK gears
Environmental legislations are driving OEMs to downsize engines and alternative powertrain solutions. This often highlights NVH issues with metal gears through rougher running engines, higher compression, or when in electric drive mode. A solution could be replacing metal gears with PEEK gears. They can offer various benefits, but require specific knowledge, for instance around the gear design.
Following the acquisition of US gear manufacturer Kleiss Gears in 2015, Victrex has been able to offer a fully integrated and highly innovative approach to PEEK gear solutions, including gear design. It allows customers to work with one single, dedicated partner from concept to commercialisation. Victrex’s gear design approach is to look at the whole system, not just the gear. The company offers not only a high-performing material but also the design expertise and capabilities such as prototyping, testing and quality inspection in place to develop gear solutions that can turn customer challenges into benefits and accelerate time to market.
Using this approach, Victrex gears have become a viable commercial solution for demanding powertrain applications with proven durability, improved NVH performance, lower weight, reduced system complexity and enhanced efficiency. In addition, they can provide a potential system cost saving, for example when compared to metal scissor gears.
Driving proactive investment in the future
Proactive investment in the development of next-generation thermoplastic solutions that drive future performance enabled Victrex to open a world-class Polymer Innovation Centre in November 2017. The new centre not only addresses material innovation but also different aspects of polymer R&D, including applications development by researchers with a tier-1 background, and external consultants able to offer an OEM perspective.
The powertrain in both ICE and PHEV/BEV is currently one of Victrex´s focus areas where the use of PEEK polymers enables benefits such as improved reliability, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of components in demanding spaces. With e-mobility and other forms of future mobility, Victrex goes beyond the vehicle itself and considers a variety of factors within the automotive ecosystem, for instance, ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) or the charging infrastructure for EVs. The aim is to address both the automotive challenges of today and the megatrends impacting tomorrow and to work with leading automotive companies to find new ways to solve complex design requirements.
The Victrex strategy for enhanced future performance is to be a partner in development, and not just a resin supplier. Several acquisitions such as Kleiss Gears or fibres manufacturer Zyex, and joint ventures like TxV Aero Composites and more recently investments in moulding technology company Surface Generation and Bond High-Performance 3D Technology, underline this approach and expand Victrex's ability to offer differentiated PEEK-based solutions.
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