Good news for manufacturers of automotive adhesives and sealants: your products are in demand around the world. According to The Freedonia Group's recent study on the world adhesives market, demand for adhesives used in the motor vehicle industry is forecast to increase 1.9% per year to reach more than 670,000 metric tons in 2002. Another market research company, Frost & Sullivan, contends that the advanced automotive adhesives market in North America had sales of $192.9 million in 1996, and will grow to $277.8 million in 2003.
What's driving the market? Increased demand for high performance products that can replace mechanical fasteners and attach plastics, rubber and aluminum components that are becoming more prevalent in new cars, such as the Mercedes-Benz CL coupe which was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show and will be sold in Europe in August and the U.S. in 2000. Several of the car's parts, including the hood, rear fenders and roof, are made of aluminum. The front fenders and the trunk lid are made of plastic, and the inside of the doors are made with magnesium. Mercedes-Benz incorporated high-tech adhesives, as well as flanging and riveting, to deal with such a wide range of materials.
Cleveland, OH-based Freedonia contends that the OEM market will dominate automotive adhesives demand, accounting for about two-thirds of the total market. According to the company's research, aftermarket products-body putty, windshield repair adhesives and those products used to bond mirror to windshield or attach molding-will expand due to an increase in worldwide vehicle ownership levels. Freedonia also contends that the motor vehicle industry is making greater use of structural adhesives, in an effort to eliminate exposed welding.
New Products With so many opportunities to sell products, manufacturers are actively launching new adhesives and sealants. In March, 3M launched a new structural product, a two-part acrylic adhesive. The solvent-free product replaces vibrational welding.
"We see a trend towards more plastics and more low-surface energy plastics," said Jim Faltiesek, market development supervisor of automotive markets for 3M Bonding Solutions. "And from an adhesives standpoint, the industry needs adhesives that bond without primers or surface treatment."
The new structural adhesive is a follow-up to the new low-surface energy product-300 LSE-which 3M launched late in 1998. 300 LSE is a solvent-free laminating adhesive which bonds difficult-to-mold surfaces. (See Coatings World, Jan./Feb, 1998 p. 22)
"There is a growing trend in the automotive industry to move away from conventional gasketing to liquid gasket materials," said Colin Deaville, product manager, adhesives and sealants for Canning, a UK-based subsidiary of U.S. company MacDermid Inc. Canning markets well-known Hylomar sealants and adhesives, including Hylomar Universal Blue, which it contends is one of the world's top automotive aftermarket sealants.
"There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is cost. There are significant savings to be made by replacing conventional gaskets and I do not know of any major automotive OEs who do not currently have 'cost down' programs in place," said Mr. Deaville.
To address auto manufacturers' needs to replace gasketing and curb costs, Canning has launched Hylo-mar Gasket 3300. According to Mr. Deaville, conventional assembly techniques require gaskets/liquid sealants to be applied to the joint faces at several locations on the assembly line. "This is an expensive process in terms of manpower and capital equipment," Mr. Deaville said. Hylomar Gasket 3300 allows for component assembly with the sealing of potentially all joints taking place as the last operation. The material, according to Mr. Deaville, is then injected into a groove with the joints and is rapidly cured to seal the joints and allow for immediate pressure/hot testing.
Mr. Deaville contends that Hylo-mar Gasket 3300 has all of the properties of conventional anaerobic sealants, plus the "gap filling capability" of silicone sealants and conventional gaskets. The difference, he said, is that unlike gaskets, Hylomar Gasket 3300 allows metal-to-metal joints to be made, which eliminates gasket relaxation in the joint. This means there is torque relaxation on the fastener. Both are key features in leak management, according to Mr. Deaville.
New Equipment Improvements Aid Application of Products The equipment side is responsible for some of the newest developments in the market. Loctite, part of the Henkel Group, has added a new robotic assembly system which makes application of adhesives and sealants more efficient. Introduced at the 1999 SAE Congress, the company's new Press-Pak gasketing system positions tubular, polypropylene packs filled with anaerobic, atop a high-pressure dispenser. The system presses material downstream to a dispense valve where it is applied to the flange surface. The compressible, one-liter package lasts 15% longer than the hard plastic cartridges it replaces, and takes just one-tenth as much space when empty, according to Loctite.
In addition to Press-Pak, Loctite introduced another dispenser system called One-Pass. The system cleans contaminants from the flange surface of automotive components via continuous flow to a felt cloth with cleaning fluid. he process allows producers of transmission, engines and axles to replace molded gaskets with a formed-in-place adhesive and sealant.
On the new products side, Loctite launched Brass-Loc threadlocker at the SAE Congress. Brass-Loc is an adhesive coating that locks and seals brass bolts, nuts and fitting in automotive coatings. Loctite is billing it as the first threadlocker that can be pre-applied on brass fasteners six months prior to the final assembly.
Loctite Fine Tunes In addition to its new product and dispenser equipment developments, Loctite has been busy fine tuning its automotive operations in North America. In February, Loctite sold its automotive aftermarket division, which included Permatex sealants, to Automotive Performance Group, Garden Grove, CA. Additionally, Loctite has unveiled plans for a new technical center in Auburn Hills, MI. The 30,000-sq.-ft facility will replace the company's present site in Troy, MI. Scheduled to be open next year, the facility will house automotive and electronic operations, automotive technical services and expanded research, engineering and test laboratories.