1 Oktober 2007

Mazda and Teijin: Launch of 100% biobased car seat fabrics

Heat-resistant bioblastic based on polylactic acid

The Teijin group has announced the marketing launch of an innovative, heat-resistant bioplastic, BiofrontTM, which initially will be used for the manufacture of a high-quality, highly durable car-seat fabric. The new fabric, developed by Teijin Fibers, the Teijin group’s core polyester fiber company, and automaker Mazda Motor Corporation, will be featured in the new Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid vehicle that Mazda will premier at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show 2007 from October 26th to November 11th.

Improved heat resistance
Although bioplastics have attracted much attention due to their environmentally friendly nature, polylactide and other bioplastics currently on the market do not offer the same level of performance as oil-based plastics in terms of heat and shock resistance. Accordingly, the use of bioplastics has been limited so far.

In 2004, however, Teijin began researching bioplastics with Musashino Chemical Laboratory, Mutual Corporation and Professor Yoshiharu Kimura from the Kyoto Institute of Technology. The result was the development of an all-new type of heat-resistant bioplastic that was officially introduced in March 2006.

Biofront incorporates technologies developed at Teijin Fiber’s Matsuyama plant, including those to combine polymer from non-oil materials, such as starch, and those related to yarn production, such as fiber spinning and drawing. The melting point of Biofront fibers is 210ºC, significantly higher than the 170ºC melting point of polylactide fibers. As a result, Biofront readily accepts high-temperature, high-pressure polyester dyeing. Such improvements have brought Biofront to the same level of performance as PET (polyethylene terephthalate).

Fabrics for car-seat skins: Stringent quality and durability demands
Fabrics for car-seat skins must satisfy stringent conditions demanded by automotive makers. As a result, polyester fibers have been used as the main material for car-seat skins, since conventional plant-based fibers are not capable of meeting all demands sufficiently.

Thanks to the convergence of the Teijin Group’s polymer technologies and Teijin Fiber’s yarn-production know-how, however, Biofront fully satisfies the requirements for high quality and durability, including high heat resistance. Moreover, surface-treatment technologies for car-seat skins developed with Mazda have made it possible to develop a car-seat fabric that is 100% bio-based fibers.

Fiber, film and plastic resin applications
Teijin Group companies are focusing on additional applications for Biofront fibers, films and plastic resins, where the heat-resistance of Biofront is expected to be particularly useful in meeting demanding requirements for fabrication and actual use.

The following applications are envisioned in fields such as automotives, industrial materials and apparel textiles:

  • Fibers: In-vehicle products, interior products and materials requiring heat-resistant, dye-affinity and anti-bacterial properties,
  • Films: Optical applications requiring transparency and heat resistance, and
  • Plastic resins: Electric/Electronic parts and chassis requiring heat resistance and molding.

Teijin expects Biofront production to reach several hundred tons in fiscal 2008 (ends March 31, 2009). The company plans to increase production at its Iwakuni plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture in 2008, as part of raising output capacity to several thousand tons.

Biofront: a short portrait

  • The raw materials used are plant-based, so Biofront is a biodegradable, environmentally friendly material, just like existing bioplastics.
  • The raw materials in Biofront are L-lactate, which is used in polylactide, and its enantiomer D-lactate, which has a unique crystalline structure offering a level of high heat resistance not possible with polylactide.
  • Biofront has a melting point of 210ºC, or 40ºC higher than that of polylactide, which has been thought to be the commercial bioplastic with the most potential.
  • Biofront’s level of heat resistance — equal to that of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), one of the main heat-resistant plastics — had been regarded as unattainable with a bioplastic.
  • Whereas existing bioplastics can substitute for only a limited range of materials, such as polypropylene (melting point approx. 160ºC), Biofront is expected to substitute for a wide range of versatile materials, including PBT and PET.
  • Biofront fibers can be ironed, something that is impossible with existing bioplastics. BIOFRONT also accepts high-temperature molding for films and plastics. No bioplastic has ever offered such resilient properties.
  • Biofront also offers superior transparency, equal to that of the highly versatile polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

Press release (PDF-document)

(Cf. news of 2006-05-12.)

Source: Teijin Group, press release, 2007-09-12.

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