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Metal Replacement Advances with High End Compounds

SpecialChem / Thibaud Deleger – May 27, 2013

Engineering plastics and thermoset materials have already succeeded many times in replacing metal in multiple markets. Although the automotive industry is by far the major outcome for metal replacement projects using high performance or high stiffness polymers there are now numerous non-automotive examples where polymers allowed for lighter weight designs. The use of reinforced polymers is still predicted to exhibit a strong growth in the coming decades. Several different reinforcing systems have been developed to compete with metal.

In some cases the tensile and flexural modulus of highly reinforced polymers can even beat those of metals. But future applications and design solutions become more complex than ever and do not simply require stiff materials anymore. The low hanging fruits have been harvested already. The use of engineering plastics needs to be smarter to allow for even more advantages: weight reduction, function integration, easier manufacturing processes, more flexible production lines, fewer components and less assembly operations are among the usually requested progresses before designing with plastics.

Material producers scratch their heads and keep on finding new formulations to keep up with launching new product range. These metal replacement projects are also a good opportunity in finding new growth paths, which is critical to raise margin levels and compensate other more mature applications and market segments losing ground to cheaper resins like reinforced polypropylenes (PP). Once applications have proved to be do-able in plastics...

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