with natural look and haptic surfaces
According to the designers at GRAFE Blankenhain, the “haute couture” of individual color and surface design of plastics consists of adding contrasting fibers or plastic particles to the desired base color. The result is customized surfaces and structures that raise product design possibilities to a new level.
In the automotive sector, manufacturers’ concept cars demonstrate this new trend. “Bumpers, sills, underride guards or wheel arch liners that appear to be made of stone with their marbled look are all the rage, especially for SUVs,” reports Danny Ludwig, Head of Product Management, Color & Functional Masterbatches. “There is a lot of demand from German and French OEMs, specifically for exterior parts.”
The first components have already been realized with GRAFE’s masterbatches at parts suppliers and have met with great approval, Ludwig says. “Flakes and fibers of different structures are incorporated into the batch. What’s completely new is that this can now also be realized with automotive-grade PP grades with a high recycled content, thus going some way toward fulfilling the sustainability promise.”
The main plastics for which the newly developed effects are used are PP for exterior and PC/ABS for interior applications. A 20 to 30 percent recycled content in PP is currently possible while still meeting the high demands placed on plastics regarding durability, emissions, component mechanics, and quality.
“For automotive manufacturers, black and gray are the most interesting, but for other industries, many colors are possible.” Whether flower pots, furniture, caravans, or toys. The applications are endless, Ludwig says.
“The development and identification of new raw materials that are suitable as additives are in constant motion within the company, since on the one hand the price factor of the added substances plays a role, but on the other hand we are also specifically looking for materials that are by-products or waste products in the production process in other industries.” This also makes up a unique selling point of GRAFE, Ludwig said.
“We have already implemented effective surfaces and structures in series components such as center consoles, bumpers, or handle shells for numerous automotive manufacturers. A good contrast from the pigment to the flakes is particularly important here. The combination of plastic with flakes, natural-based fibers, or smaller particles creates a look that enhances a surface texture and makes subsequent painting or foiling unnecessary, for example,” explains the expert.
With their collection, the developers at GRAFE are visually and haptically in line with the trend of the times and focus, above all, on the symbiosis of design language and effects. At the same time, megatrends such as sustainability, bioplastics, and recyclates are the focus of forward-looking product development.