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Ford & BASF Team Up to Develop Bio-based Foam for Making Instrument Panel for its Ford Focus

Published on 2011-10-05. Author : SpecialChem

Castor oil is just what the doctor ordered to reduce petroleum-based fossil fuel content in the instrument panel of the new Ford Focus. "Working with BASF, we now can offer our North American customers the new Ford Focus with the industry's first seamless soft-touch instrument panel that's stronger, better-looking and better on the environment," said Bari Brown, Ford Advanced Product Development Engineer. "Castor oil from plants helps deliver sustainable interior foam that reduces petroleum use while improving vehicle craftsmanship. It's beneficial both for the customer and Mother Nature."

Castor oil is derived from the Ricinus Communis flowering spurge plant, which has widespread growth throughout tropical regions. The plant's oil presents a sustainable interior foam solution that does not compete with food sources. Employing more than 10 percent renewable content, the resulting foam product passes all Ford performance requirements for interior components.

Stronger, softer, faster

The new castor oil-based foam is significantly more durable than the previously used material, with a 36 percent better tensile strength, a measure of the foam's ability to hold its shape over time and use. Tear strength also is improved by 5 percent while elongation stretch under temperature or impact stress, is reduced by almost 12 percent.

From a customer's perspective, the Focus instrument panel is softer to the touch; it seamlessly contains the first-row passenger airbag, for a more appealing interior. Productivity is improved and the manufacturing process is simplified by the 43 percent reduction in time for the castor oil-based foam product to cure. Scrap from this foam product is reduced due to improved flow and processing characteristics.

BASF and sustainability

"BASF is committed to the development of sustainable solutions for the automotive industry," said Joel Johnson, Vice President, BASF Polyurethane Systems. "Working with Ford on the first castor oil-based foam is an excellent example of two industry leaders focused on speed-to-market made possible by collaboration. Finding a sustainable product that saves more than 5,000 barrels of oil for every 300,000 Ford Focus models produced in North America is a very exciting solution for all of us."

Ford is committed to developing new, sustainable technologies that reduce the use of fossil fuel while increasing vehicle quality and enhancing customers' experiences and attitudes about their vehicles. Over time, Ford plans to incorporate castor oil-based foam solutions across more products in its full-line global portfolio.

A sustainable solution

Ford has consistently concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible provided these materials are environmentally favorable and meet all performance and durability requirements. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and gaskets, wheat straw-filled storage bins, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.

Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate soy-based foam could be formulated to pass the stringent requirements for automotive applications, pioneering its use in seats for the 2008 Ford Mustang and in headliners for the 2010 Ford Escape.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, one of the global automotive industry leaders based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.

About BASF Polyurethanes

BASF is one of the leading suppliers of Polyurethane Solutions for systems, specialties and PU basic products. With its global network of 38 polyurethane system houses and its comprehensive product and service portfolio, BASF is the preferred partner of its customers in many industries. In the extremely service-oriented business of polyurethane systems and specialties, reliable PU experience and competence are crucial. Through its system house network, BASF provides fast local support, from technical service and sales to production and marketing during the development of customized solutions. With its world-scale plants, BASF secures its leading market position in the production of polyurethane basic products in all regions of the world.

Polyurethanes make life more comfortable, safer and more pleasant while helping to save energy sustainably. They contribute towards improved insulation of buildings and more attractive, lightweight design of cars. Producers of shoes, mattresses and household goods as well as sports equipment use the unique advantages of polyurethanes provided with the knowledge and expertise of the polyurethane experts of BASF world-wide.

About BASF - The Chemical Company

BASF Corporation, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF has approximately 16,400 employees in North America, and had sales of $17.7 billion in 2010. BASF is one of the world's leading chemical companies. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products, and agricultural products to oil and gas. As a reliable partner BASF creates chemistry to help its customers in virtually all industries to be more successful. With its high-value products and intelligent solutions, BASF plays an important role in finding answers to global challenges such as climate protection, energy efficiency, nutrition and mobility.

Source: BASF - The Chemical Company

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