MANNHEIM, GERMANY — International Automotive Components (IAC) showed several new process technologies at the VDI plastics in automotive conference in Mannheim. Its FastKast slush process was demonstrated in a serial production application — the instrument panel and central console of the Ford B-Max car's cockpit. This involves cladding a styrene maleic anhydride (SMA) substrate with a foam-backed PVC slush skin.
IAC produces the cockpit at its new plant in Bals, Romania, located near Ford Motor Co.'s plant in Craiova. But the company says it is rolling out FastKast to a number of its other plants around the world this year, including its new one in Chongqing, China, which opened in April and is IAC's 10th plant in the country.
Helmet Bergers, IAC's director of advanced engineering in tooling, processes and materials, told European Plastics News that FastKast was developed in the United States and that in Europe, aside from production in Bals, there is also a prototype line at IAC's plant in Ebersberg, Germany.
Bergers said that IAC's slush process is characterized by its ability to produce less glossy surfaces, so imperfections are less likely to show through. The process can produce cladding on parts within tolerances of ±0.15mm, compared with the more usual ±0.25mm for conventional slush molding, Bergers said.
He cited other advantages, such as low processing costs due to fast cycle times, lower tool costs and reduced use of plasticizers. In particular, FastKast uses an infrared heater running continuously which heats just the nickel area of the slush mold. This means energy consumption is 70 percent lower than conventional slush molding processes.
IAC demonstrated another process that involves laminating visible natural fiber surfaces onto natural fiber reinforced trim in its Eco Door prototype. This comprises a door panel underpart made of a visible kenaf fiber mat reinforced PP, an opaque PP clad insert and a PET fiber fabric clad armrest.
The armrest was illuminated underneath the PET fabric with LED light and optical fibers. The upper part of the door panel was decorated in linen fabric.
Fritz Schweindl, IAC's advanced engineering director responsible for pre-development, showed European Plastics News the company's latest ecological solution – compression molding of trim using a compound made from kenaf fiber reinforced PP which contains 10 percent pyrolized recycled carbon fibers from the aircraft industry. Schweindl held up a prototype armrest in the material which had been stiffened by overmolded thermoplastic ribs.
Another new IAC process, SmartFoil, has been selected for the interior lower door panels of the 2014 model-year General Motors Corvette Stingray car. Production of parts for the car started at IAC's plant in Dayton, the US, in July.
The process eliminates conventional adhesive processes and, in a single-step process, involves injection backmolding PP to a pre-heated thermoplastic olefin (TPO). The TPO has a topcoat to make it more durable against scratches and scuffmarks.
The company said SmartFoil has excellent in-mold grain definition and a "vacuum-form feel". Its cost is similar to soft-touch paint and it can reduce weight by 10 percent in each component compared with traditional solutions.
The foil wraps around the material after molding without parting lines showing on storage compartments such as map pockets.
IAC supplies hand-stitched decorated trim for the 2014 Corvette Stingray's instrument panel and floor console. But the company says it is considering combining SmartFoil in future with natural fiber reinforced compression molded and various molded hybrid material solutions for console and instrument panel trim.