Partners developing auto parts reinforced with steel

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LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY (March 22, 1:15 p.m. ET) — BASF SE, NV Bekaert SA and Voestalpine Plastics Solutions have announced joint development of injection molded automotive components that are reinforced with steel cord fabrics, which are designed to withstand car crashes.

The three companies said in a statement they aim to further develop the EASI (energy, absorption, safety and integrity) technology with partners in the automotive industry.

They said: “In contrast to known types of reinforcements like continuous fiber-reinforced laminates or other carbon or glass fiber fabrics, the steel cord inserts ensure especially the integrity of the molded part’s function in a crash situation. This creates an entirely new performance class.”

An earlier version of the technology, involving compression molding with GMT (glass mat reinforced thermoplastics), received the AVK Innovation Award in 2008.

The partners bring individual expertise to the technology, which they have been developing for injection molding since 2010.

Bekaert, based in Kortrijk, Belgium, contributes its expertise in the manufacture of steel cord fabrics, while Voestalpine Plastics Solutions, based in the Netherlands, is responsible for the processing technology and part production in injection molding.

Ludwigshafen-based BASF said the technology continues its development of crash-optimized short or long fiber-reinforced polyamide materials in its Ultramid product line. The group said it is enhancing the capabilities of its Ultrasim simulation tool through incorporation of representation methods and material models for the new composite materials.

It said: “By using polyamide as matrix material it is not only possible to access attached or semi-structural parts but also gain entry to components of the body-in-white [car body structure], which need to run through the e-coating process.”

The parts reinforced with steel cord would be damaged in a crash, but at the same time are still able to absorb energy.

“This is a decisive innovation when compared to molded plastic parts with conventional reinforcement that usually fracture upon failure,” the partners said.

They are targeting car parts designed for absorption and harmonic distribution of crash energy, such as bumper beam carriers or front ends as well as body-in-white components.

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