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Automotive Weight Saving Technologies Advancing Rapidly!

SpecialChem / Donald Rosato & Don Rosato – Sep 26, 2011

Faced with growing concerns about the impact that automobiles have on our environment OEMs are using lighter weight materials in automotive components, parts consolidation, and innovative processes. The MetaFuse process applies a very thin high-strength nanocrystalline metal layer to molded engineering plastics (acetal, nylon, thermoplastic polyester) components with a 47% weight reduction over equivalent steel parts in vehicle engine and drive train components. TAPT, developed by TI Automotive, is a new manufacturing process that allows hybrid-electric vehicle manufacturers to replace current steel designs with quieter, lighter, low-emission plastic tanks. Significant weight savings are possible converting standard windshields/side tempered glazing using Saflex Q series advanced polyvinyl butyral (PVB) acoustic interlayer from Solutia. Mazda's foam molding technology combines the use of supercritical fluids with core back expansion molding and reduces consumption of plastic resin by 20-30% with a corresponding reduction in vehicle weight.

Traditionally JSP or BASF expanded polypropylene (EPP) engineered foam were used in bumpers and car doors, but they are increasingly found throughout the car where they can reduce system mass by up to 25-35%. Automotive Tier 1 system manufacturer Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) has achieved a substantial reduction in the density of unsaturated polyester/glass SMC (sheet molding compound) parts by incorporating high-strength microspheres into the SMC resin matrix. Advanced D-SMC (Direct Sheet Molding Compound) processing is opening up new possibilities for using thermosetting plastic composite materials in lightweight construction for the automotive industry.

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