BMW has been working since 2004 on a new form of ultra soft synthetic rubber to stop insects from leaving impact marks on car windscreens and headlights. The system is currently only available for the top models of the BMW range and is known as IDS.
The new ultra soft rubber has been developed at BMW's new materials research facility located in Munich, Germany.
A second version of the ultra soft rubber, which absorbs most of the energy from the high speed impacts, has been developed by BMW for use on visors used on type approved sports helmets such as those typically used by riders of powerboats, power skis and motorcycles.
BMW claim that it can reduce residual insect debris from direct high speed collisions by almost ninety percent for insect weights not exceeding 120 micro-grams and where the terminal impact velocity is less than 180 kph. This ultra soft rubber also offers some additional protection of the screen or visor against small stone chips thrown up by preceding vehicle tyres.
The ultra soft synthetic rubber treatment is currently available from some of the larger BMW specialist motorcycle dealerships. However, the dealerships are only able to offer the clear treatment for non-prescription visors. Vision Express in the UK is offering the treatment in either a clear or polarised, light sensitive auto-tinting versions but only for their own range of prescription visors.
Vision Express are the only accredited suppliers of IDS in the UK at the moment and for a short period Vision Express is making the system available on all new purchases of prescription helmet visors for the Bell, BMW, Caborg, Nolan, Shuberth, Shoei and Soumi ranges.
The treatment is a two part process similar to powder-coating, where the helmet visor has to undergo a specialist cleaning treatment and surface preparation before the ultra soft synthetic rubber can then be applied. The visor is then placed in a centrifuge driven auto-clave to heat treat the rubber to cure and remove any minor surface imperfections. The process is best done on a brand new visor. However, visors (without any previous anti-fogging treatment) can be retro-treated and a side benefit of the process is that it will eliminate any light surface scratches.
The chemical compounds used in the ultra soft synthetic rubber will not react with polycarbonate and other plastic materials used for making helmet visors. Applying the helmet visor with the ultra soft synthetic rubber and attaching a side grip tag, leaving a twenty minute gap between applications can create a series of instant peel off layers. However, multi-layer applications of the polarised, light sensitive version, is not recommended by Vision Express or BMW.
The new helmet visor treatment also has several significant additional benefits for creating an anti-fogging surface when an ultra thin application is also given to the inside of the helmet visor. Another benefit is a significant reduction in surface beading by rainwater on the visor. The treatment works as an instant wetting agent and lowers the surface tension of the water droplets from 72 ergs/cm^2 to less than 20 ergs/cm^2. This gives a significantly improved level of visibility especially in low light conditions or when oncoming headlamps are causing a significant amount of refractive light scatter from the water droplets forming on the inside of the untreated screen or visor.
BMW research is also involved in pioneering other applications for the new material technology. Including various aerodynamic sound-proofing helmet modifications made in an effort to reduce interior noise levels. Previously, the only modification which achieved a significant reduction from previously reported average sound levels was the incorporation of a pair of industrial strength earmuffs under the helmet shell. This gave noise levels of 84 dB(A) at 22 m/s (50 mph) and 93dB(A) at 36 m/s (80 mph), compared to known average values of 95dB(A) and 107dB(A), respectively.
Using the rubber as part of the visor sealing strip and inside the helmet ventilation as a baffle gave reduced noise levels of 86 dB(A) at 22 m/s (50 mph) and 93dB(A) at 36 m/s (80 mph). There are also possibilities for producing ultra soft synthetic rubber ear plugs which have a specially sized hole inserted down the centre. The ultra soft synthetic rubber lining absorbs the high and low frequency sounds outside of the human hearing range and allows the normal vocal range 3-30 kHz to pass freely.
BMW are collaborating with Bridgestone to develop for Yamaha racing a multi-mixture tyre compound that will improve side grip and reduce central tyre wear. The tyre sidewall grip has been significantly improved by use of the new ultra soft rubber. The material for the central band on the tyre has been developed by Bridgestone from recycled materials from the recently recalled Michelin road tyres.
BMW working in conjunction with Oxford have developed a new range of heated handlebar grips. The new ultra soft rubber has exhibited excellent thermal insulation and anti vibration properties, when moulded to form a revolutionary pull-on pull-off handlebar sheath. The new ultra soft rubber can be used to contain the residual heat of the grips for long periods, thereby slowing down the transfer of the heat to the grip surface by 87%. The sheath surface is also ribbed on the inside and outside to give more grip and to transfer more sensation to the rider than comes from the more traditional materials used currently. Oxford is also producing a version of their passively heated outer glove using the new ultra soft rubber. The outer glove surface is also ribbed on the inside and outside to transfer as much of the natural feel as possible to the rider's normal gloves whilst reducing vibration.
Additionally BMW research also sees applications for the treatment in the aeronautical industry for treating pilot's sunglasses reducing the requirement for constant cleaning. Other applications include the catering industry, where the new treatment could be used to line the surface of beer and wine glasses. This would remove any need for items to be mechanically washed in between periods of use for the lifetime of the surface treatment.
There are also other possible applications for the new ultra soft synthetic rubber in the farming industry. Post-milking teat disinfection is less effective in reducing the new infection rate of "environmental" pathogens such as coli forms and Streptococcus species other than Streptococcus agalactiae. Control of environmental pathogens requires management practices such as maintaining cows in a clean, dry environment; good pre-milking hygiene, including pre-milking teat disinfection and thoroughly drying teats. BMW discovered that treating the teat surface of milking parlour cows with a coating of the ultra soft synthetic rubber helped to eradicate the pathogen problem and the drying problem.
Animal slurries require special bio-secure handling and are usually treated by containment in anaerobic lagoons, with the potential for causing severe pollution. Some animal slurries are treated by mixing with straw and then composted at high temperature to produce much more bacteriological sterile and friable manure for soil improvement. BMW research discovered that internal treatment of the cows with the new ultra soft synthetic rubber allowed for improved handling of large amounts of bovine excreta at the point where the waste is evacuated. The waste is now ready packaged for ethical disposal and goes some way to producing a more sterile manure using the beasts own internally generated heat.
BMW is also carrying out research collaboration with two other UK based companies. The first is PlanetKnox Limited, a UK company that specialises in the design and manufacture of protection systems for a range of extreme sports through its popular brand Cold Killers. The production of a new ultra soft synthetic rubber version of the Cold Killer is in the development stage and also incorporates the new surface ribbing. It is expected that this new product will also create some additional demand in the S&M market.
The second collaboration is with a UK based Ann Summers UK Ltd concentrating on their rabbit range of products and incorporating the new ultra soft synthetic rubber which has been shown to give a much more naturally flexible product that maintains residual body heat and aids a much improved battery life.