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Keywords of this article:  injection molding 
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automotive 
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Class-A fender produced with Borealis Fibremod Carbon by Magna Exteriors.
Class-A fender produced with Borealis Fibremod Carbon by Magna Exteriors.

The automotive industry is working constantly to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in production. For functional and structural parts of vehicles, plastics innovations bring lightweight possibility without sacrificing performance. From the latest solutions offered by leading plastic materials suppliers, we can understand the development trends more clearly.

Material innovations lead to commercial applications

The fibre-reinforced polypropylene (PP) grades in the Borealis Fibremod family are engineered to achieve lightweight, integrated, and high-performing solutions. The recently launched range of Fibremod Carbon Fibre Polypropylene (CFPP) grades offers these benefits and more. CFPP is thus a suitable replacement material solution for many conventional engineering plastics used in the automotive industry.

Borealis CFPP grades are lightweight and exhibit extreme stiffness; they also boast excellent processability. Unlike polyamides (PA), CFPP is not hygroscopic, meaning it does not absorb moisture. Compared to other plastics, CFPP products help minimize ‘squeak and rattle’ noises.

The recently launched CFPP product Fibremod CB061SY has been used by a leading North American OEM to make the A-pillar brackets on a top-selling commercial vehicle. Although only 6% carbon fibre-filled, the product offers a stiffness of approximately 4000 MPa, and a density of 0.93 g/cm3.

Using Fibremod CB061SY has enabled this leading OEM to achieve significant weight savings without having to compromise on performance requirements. This first commercial application of Fibremod CFPP was honored as a finalist at the 2017 Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Innovation Awards in Detroit, the US.

Another Fibremod Carbon application was recognized at the SPE Automotive Composites Conference. The prestigious “Materials Innovation” award went to Magna Exteriors for their lightweight class-A fender made possible by Fibremod Carbon.

Having modified an existing tool capable of producing a viable thermoplastic alternative to a conventional metal-stamped part, Magna Exteriors ultimately selected a Borealis Fibremod Carbon development grade containing 10% carbon fibre-reinforced engineered PP. This enables the manufacturer to achieve both the exterior part impact performance required for crash and pedestrian safety, and the high-quality look of a class-A painted part.

In addition, because the part is made of reclaimed Fibremod Carbon Fibre, the body panel weighs 30% to 40% less than conventional aluminium panels, and enables zero gap performance with very low CLTE when compared to other engineering plastics. This makes the exterior application more recyclable, lighter weight, and thus more sustainable.

Advanced technologies to facilitate lightweight structures

In automotive sector, the specialty chemicals company LANXESS is now focusing on materials and technologies for lightweight structures as well as on heat-dissipating, flame-retardant polyamides and polyesters for thermally stressed electrical and electronic components. Another focus is set on polyamides with high thermal stability.

The continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites of the Tepex brand family of LANXESS can be found in more and more series production applications, facilitating lightweight vehicle design. Some application examples include front end mountings and bumper beams, brake pedals, through-loading systems, and fuel tank reinforcements.

Tepex-brand continuous-fiber-reinforced composites are excellent for lightweight construction.LANXESS also sees significant potentials for use of the materials in vehicle underbodies for the protection of batteries and in new concepts for highly-integrated, multi-position seats for self-driving cars.

LANXESS is also currently developing composite variants with electromagnetic shielding properties especially for components of electrified vehicle drivetrains.

The company has developed the XTS2 thermostabilization (Extreme Temperature Stabilization) which increases the thermal stability of polyamide 66 to up to 230°C. Important mechanical properties, such as tensile modulus, breaking stress or IZOD impact strength, are maintained at a high level even at constant temperatures of up to 230°C.

As introduced, unlike many other thermostabilization options, the new system shows no stabilization gap between 160°C and 230°C. Target applications for XTS2 materials are in vehicles with high efficient combustion engines.

The first product from the XTS2 product portfolio is a polyamide 66 reinforced with 35% glass fiber reinforcement. The material is marketed as Durethan AKV35XTS2. It is excellent for the production of components such as air intake manifolds with an integrated intercooler.

Another polyamide 66 with 30% glass fiber reinforcement is under development as well as reinforced polyamide 66 for blow molded hollow components such as air ducts in the engine compartment.

The new Hollow Profile Hybrid Technology developed by LANXESS is a further development of the classic plastic metal hybrid technology for automotive mass production. Instead of sheet metal, hollow metal profiles with round or square cross-sections are used in combination with polyamide 6 injection molding.

Due to their dimensional stability, hollow profiles enable hybrid parts with significantly higher torsional stiffness and strength. There is an enormous potential for structural components such as cross car beams, which were not resilient enough using conventional hybrid technology.

This new process is simple to realize by injection molding manufacturers. The investment for machinery and tool is low and cycle times are as short as for standard injection molding.

High-performance polyamides for key components of EVs

Lightweight design is also a focus topic for electric vehicles (EVs) which are emerging in the market. Reduction in vehicle weight contributes towards a reduction in the energy requirements of the car, especially during acceleration. This makes lightweight design measures an important factor in the development of EVs.

Long fiber reinforced high-performance polyamides from EMS-GRIVORY provide an alternative to heavy die-cast alloys. These polyamides are high quality and proven products for components such as battery brackets and housings in EVs.

Their partially aromatic matrix enables them to remain stiff and strong, even after water absorption. The special long glass-fiber reinforcement (LFT) leads to a sustainable improvement of thermomechanical properties at high temperatures so that these LFT products still exhibit high mechanical property values even at temperatures in the region of the glass transition point. In addition, the fiber skeleton makes high energy absorption possible under crash loading.

For the simulation of highly dynamic processes, EMS-GRIVORY provides elongation rate dependent material data sets, taking into account anisotropy and kind of load, to enable optimal design of structural components in the field of electric car construction.

Thermal management is very important for efficient running of EVs, in particular to maintain the high voltage battery, power electronics and electric motor at the correct temperature level. Here, for example, liquid-cooled, water-based systems are used.

EMS-GRIVORY has developed the new product Grivory HT1VA for cooling system applications. This material has outstanding resistance to hydrolysis and cooling agents and can withstand long-term use at moderate cooling agent temperatures.

After around 12,000 hours in water at 95°C, Grivory HT1VA exhibits 30% higher strength values compared to a traditional PPA under the same conditions. A further advantage of this product when used in EV applications is that it is equipped with electro-compatible stabilization. This makes it extremely suitable for production of electronic components as in combination with electrical conductors, no ionic migration and in warm climates, no corrosive effects are created.

This property profile makes Grivory HT1VA extremely well suited for challenging applications in cooling systems of electric vehicles, such as auxiliary water pumps or thermal management modules.

Polycarbonate the key material for future mobility

Most of the future functionalities are derived from the E&E industry, whether it is about electric drive or battery technology, sensor technology, connectivity or artificial intelligence.
Seamless integration of multifunctional displays using polycarbonate films.
Polycarbonate has been used for many years in innovative applications in the E&E and automotive industries. Due to its outstanding properties, it can also serve as a key material for the new mobility.

Covestro is developing new concepts based on polycarbonate. The focal points of the developments are integration of lighting and sensor technology, automotive glazing, a functional and individually designed interior, and the powertrain for EVs.

One example is the seamless glazing of injection-molded elements and the integration of vitreous body parts. The use of polycarbonate combines design freedom and functionality with the safety of passengers and other road users. For example, seamlessly integrated LED lighting concepts and front elements that are permeable to infrared radiation from LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors also contribute to this.

In car interiors, good thermal insulation of polycarbonate also ensures effective thermal management. The air conditioning system consumes less energy when heating and cooling, which leads to a longer range of EVs.

Especially in car interiors, the optical and haptic material properties play an important part. Modern plastics offer great freedom, especially in the functional and individual design of the car interior. Ambient lighting with LED technology, new plastic optics and displays can be seamlessly integrated into large plastic components, thus conveying a complete picture.

LSR gaining wider applications in automotive industry

In automotive industry, the vision of the fully autonomous car means vehicles have more and more electronic features, prompting the demand for super clean and integrated liquid silicone rubber (LSR) components.
LED parts of vehicles and protection from vibration and extreme temperatures.
While it is a long road ahead before autonomous driving technology is commercially available, one thing is certain – vehicles in the future will use advanced electronics, such as high performance sensors, cables and other key parts to ensure a higher level of safety.

Seal, damp and protect are key to the performance and reliability of composite electrical and mechanical components in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

ADAS components include sensors, switches and other controls with electronic, mechatronic and components based on the principals of LiDAR, radar and sonar technology. LSR has the ability to resist extreme temperatures, ensuring the conductivity of these components and provide them with the insulation to resist heat, moisture and dust.

LSR can also be used as adhesives and sealants to strengthen bonds and enables the use of advanced materials with optically clear material characteristics in vehicles.

Dow Performance Silicones, a global business unit of DowDuPont’s Materials Science Division, introduced a silicone adhesive under the new DOWSIL brand (formerly Dow Corning) EA-6060 to accelerate assembly and lower production costs for automotive module assembly.

Many automotive suppliers are under pressure to speed assembly and lower production costs without compromising the performance of control units and sensor modules, according to Dow. New DOWSIL EA-6060 Adhesive helps to address all of these challenges by forming fast, reliable bonds on common metal and plastic substrates at lower temperatures than currently available products.

Available as a two-part formulation, DOWSIL EA-6060 Adhesive develops required adhesion within 30 minutes at 80°C, though the material also allows accelerated cure at higher temperatures. After cure, it delivers reliable adhesion for common substrates, such as the metal housings and plastic lids used in automotive module assembly.

LSR-based products are also gaining recognition in lightings, including vehicle headlamps and traffic lights. Using silicone in the potting and encapsulation of LEDs protects them from vibration, extreme temperatures and air. It also makes it easier to assemble them with other electronic components.

With UL 94 V1 and 5VA flame resistance, Silopren LSR 7180 from Momentive Performance Materials Inc. is designed for use in outdoor and area lighting applications.

Under Momentive’s Ultra Clear Silopren LSR 7000 series of optically clear LSRs, it comes with outstanding optical clarity and long-term color stability, enabling LED manufacturers to replace glass and thermoplastics with a lightweight material.  

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