How competitive is automotive design

New technologies and materials for the future

Report on the 3rd BIA symposium plastics and electroplating by Barbara Eufinger

The 3rd symposium of the company BIA Kunststoff- und Galvanotechnik in Solingen at the end of June 2018 offered news and innovations around plastics and electroplating technology. Over 80 visitors were given insights into the latest developments at BIA as well as current trends in automotive design. The conference was rounded off by the presentation of BIA production at the Solingen location with a new, fully automatic high-bay warehouse and an administration building that has just been ready for occupancy.

BIA managing director Jörg Püttbach opened the conference with a clear statement in favor of chrome as an optically and haptically valuable and future-proof design element in the automotive sector. Jörg Püttbach is convinced that chrome is still competitive and, as the conference showed, the processes at BIA have been enormously developed so that galvanic chrome plating will continue to be the best technology for metallic surfaces in vehicle construction in the future. It is cost-efficient and, thanks to our constant developments, always offers new design options.

REACh authorization

On the subject of the REACh regulation, BIA managing director Dr. Markus Dahlhaus gave a brief overview of the status of the authorization of chromium trioxide (chromium (VI)), which BIA has applied for with the Association for Galvanized Plastics (FGK). According to Dr. Dahlhaus for more than a year for confirmation from the EU Commission; According to the authorities, this is overloaded. However, in the experience of Dr. Dahlhaus, the commission followed the recommendation of ECHA in 100 percent of all applications. In addition to securing the current production from chromium (VI) processes, BIA produces, according to Dr. Dahlhaus already successfully produces chrome surfaces made of chrome (III) electrolytes in series and is intensively involved in the process development for chrome (VI) free pretreatment with chemical manufacturers.

New technologies in plastic electroplating

Heiko Viecenz, Key Account Manager Automotive Sales at the specialty chemicals supplier HSO, also started his presentation on new developments. According to him, chrome surfaces made of chrome (III) electrolytes are now reliably developed and, as the production at BIA in Slovakia already shows, are also suitable for series production. All automotive requirements would be met. However, according to the HSO expert, the process management is much more demanding and the color of the layer is an issue. Since the layer of the chromium (III) process is deposited from the cation, foreign metals in the layer can cause color fluctuations. However, this can also be seen as a development opportunity, as new, dark surfaces are deliberately made possible with the addition of alloy components. In this way, the providers of the processes are complying with the OEM's request for new, dark design surfaces that continue to offer the metallic feel. This is how plastic electroplating is becoming a trendsetter. In combination with structured surfaces such as the BIA Texture Chrome, the design options expand enormously, Viecenz gave an outlook on possible surface trends.

On the subject of chromium (VI) -free pickling, he also reported enormous progress in development. We are heading in the right direction, but some time is still required before the process-reliable qualification is achieved.

New materials for injection molding

The current research and development approaches for new materials and requirements in plastic electroplating were explained by Dr. Felix Heinzler, Head of Development and Process Technology at BIA. According to him, the requirements for components have increased steadily over the past few years. The expert summarized the problem in material development with increasing functional integration in fluoroscopy, shoring and surface design, but also geometries with sharp radii and growing test requirements. This is where the BIA development comes in with a systematic search for suitable plastics.

Heinzler presented the BIA test results for 27 materials. With the help of a special test tool that depicts difficult component geometries and surfaces, various galvanizable ABS / PC blends were tested. There are plastics that, when compared to standard ABS, do not fail in the tests and show less warpage. Materials with high heat resistance in combination with low viscosity open up a large process window and have a positive influence on test resistance, as Dr. Heinzler drew a positive conclusion from the research efforts.

The BIA development has also intensively examined the expanded material requirements for ambient lighting such as day contrast, transmission and light scattering. According to Dr. By selecting the right material, Heinzler can offer its customers tailor-made solutions that meet the high requirements, even for difficult components. Involve us at an early stage so we can select the right material for your special requirements, he finally appealed to the customers.

Design request Authentic materials

Aurelie Nangniot, Design Project Manager, and Dominique Manceau, Head of Innovation at Groupe Plastivaloire, showed which trends in the automotive sector are currently moving designers. Authentic materials are currently playing an increasingly important role in design and are increasingly becoming the focus for vehicles. The focus is on wood, stone, leather and chrome. They are no longer only used in the premium segment, but are increasingly setting accents in all vehicles. Combinations with light effects and structuring are required. Since natural products such as stone or wood have an irregular structure, every vehicle is unique, according to Nangniot. With the integration of many functions in touch screens, the designers set special accents for the remaining elements. Structured metal surfaces like the BIA Texture Chrome are trendy with the integration of function and design.

Night design news

This is exactly where the lecture New Design Options through the Use of BIA Night Design and BIA Texture Chrome by Ullrich Gutgar, Deputy Head of Development and Process Technology at BIA, started. He gave an overview of the possibilities that the company offers for structured surfaces. Depending on customer requirements and component, BIA can implement structured surfaces in the tool as the latest process technology or laser-structured surfaces in large 3D format. In the night design process, overmolding processes, lasers or printing processes are available. Chrome and light grow together in the ambient lighting. Gutgar presented the latest BIA development with the BIA post-design Multicolor.

Backlit symbols in all colors can be created with colored back-injected foils. With the BIA multicolor films, the contrast is improved during the day, different colors are possible despite single-color LEDs and any number of colors can be realized with a maximum of 2-component injection molding, as Gutgar emphasized the new possibilities for the designer.

Electroplating 4.0

For the competitiveness of the chrome surface, a constant improvement of the processes in the company is decisive. Under the heading of Electroplating 4.0, BIA operations manager Florian Koch and Boris Gebauer, Managing Director of Gebauer GmbH (System TimeLine) examined all production areas at BIA on the subject of digitization and gave an outlook on future optimization scenarios. Starting with the connection to the customer, which in the future is to work in a network with the exchange of real-time, there will also be integrative production planning with real-time simulation and automated transport systems in the logistics area. In injection molding, automated tool provision and change will replace manual set-up, and tool-related prototype production could then give way to 3D rapid prototyping.

The rack memory with article-specific RFID tags, which is already fully automatic at BIA, could continue to be made available automatically up to the attachment station. At BIA, plugging and unplugging is already done in part by robots, while the final inspection is currently a purely manual process. Automated test methods as well as robot-assisted finishing and packaging are still a long way off here. In shipping, BIA is already offering Industry 4.0 with the new fully automatic high-bay warehouse, automatic generation of all freight documents and an online connection to logistics service providers.

Optimization of processes and at the same time creativity in new processes and developments, together with a global orientation, will be the key to the future success of German companies, as BIA Managing Director Jörg Püttbach emphasized with conviction at the end of the conference.


Full plenum at the 3rd symposium on plastics and electroplating, which BIA and external speakers contested with topics relating to the future of chrome surfaces in automotive design


The new administration building at the Solingen company headquarters was completed in time for the symposium, giving the BIA Group a contemporary and representative face


Visitors to the symposium received interesting insights into the state-of-the-art BIA production on the factory tours through production at the Solingen location

Text to cover picture: Auto show: On the fringes of the BIA symposium, visitors to the Audi A8 and A7, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class, the Mercedes-AMG GT and the Range Rover Sport were able to see live which parts BIA makes for these premium vehicles

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