New Piano-Black Resin Fends Against Scratches in High-Touch Areas

At BASF, we take pride in serving as a solutions-driven partner for our automotive customers by meeting their current and future needs through science and innovation. Research and development (R&D) is crucial to our strategy in accomplishing that goal.

In our focus of technology-driven innovation, our work with Ford Motor Company brought us a tremendous opportunity to save cost and reduce environmental impact by replacing painted interior parts with molded in color polyamide resin.

This innovative solution for Ford also saw us selected as finalist for a 2014 Automotive News PACE Awards. For more than 20 years the Automotive News PACE Awards have honored superior innovation, technological advancement and business performance among automotive suppliers. This prestigious award is recognized around the world as the industry benchmark for innovation.

The resin initially selected for the application passed standard interior scratch and mar testing, however when vehicles put it to use, it became evident that scratch and mar resistance was not going to be adequate.

The major challenge came in developing a resin that could achieve a high-gloss, piano-black finish as well as resist scratch and mar in high-touch areas such as door switch bezels and top finish panels.

The high-gloss, piano-black finish is scratch and mar resistant in high-touch areas of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid such as door switch bezels and top finish panels. (Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company) The high-gloss, piano-black finish is scratch and mar resistant in high-touch areas of the new Ford Fusion Hybrid such as door switch bezels and top finish panels. (Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

In an interview with senior editor Patrick Waurzyniak of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, our own Mark D. Minnichelli, director of technology and development at BASF Performance Materials and Engineering Plastics had this to say, "We took one of our standard base materials and we came up with a new recipe that allowed us to compound in other resins and additives in order to achieve the desired performance. It's an impressive part. It's got that deep, rich-black high gloss. The challenge that we were presented with is have that color and also have good scratch resistance. This happens to be the most aesthetically demanding internal automotive application that we've done."

Working against the clock, due to a pending vehicle launch, we worked with our project partners and set out to design a new resin with significantly improved scratch and mar resistance while maintaining color and gloss requirements.

"The major accomplishment of our team was to develop a material that had a rich, deep-black, high-gloss appearance as molded, with a highly durable scratch-resistant surface, and UV-stable color performance," Minnichelli said to Waurzyniak. "These attributes are challenging to achieve simultaneously. I can tell you that unique process technology was important to achieving the product requirements on this project."

By the end of the project, the team developed an entirely new resin optimized for a new molding process, as well as new test procedures to simulate in use functionality.

The product has successfully launched in the 2013 Ford Fusion, and provides Ford with significant cost savings versus painted parts, while reducing the environmental impact of painting and shipping parts from point to point.

The 2014 Automotive News PACE Awards will be presented on April 7, 2014 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit.