Plastics continue to point the way forward for auto industry

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: April 9, 2014 2:55 pm ET
Updated: April 9, 2014 3:10 pm ET

Image By: Ford Motor Co. The latest update to the ACC's "plastics roadmap" for the auto industry points to potential ways to improve fuel economy through lighter parts, such as a one-piece front end module on the Ford Taurus.

Related to this story

Topics Public Policy, United States, Automotive
Companies & Associations Ford Motor Co.

More demonstration of the capabilities of plastics and polymer composites is needed to expand the use of those materials in automotive applications, according to a new roadmap from the American Chemistry Council’s plastics division.

ACC’s plastics division created its first roadmap in 2001, and last updated it in 2009. The latest version, “Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets,” is intended to set a framework for increasing the penetration of plastics and polymer composites in the automotive industry, with an emphasis on lightweighting and meeting fuel efficiency standards.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. EPA require automakers to achieve fuel efficiency of more than 50 mpg by 2025. Automakers are increasingly looking to plastics as a lightweight alternative to traditional materials; carbon fiber-reinforced composites, for example, are 50 percent lighter than conventional steel and 30 percent lighter than aluminum, according to the roadmap.

“There’s so much pressure put on the OEMs at this point to be able to meet the new CAFE standards … that the value that plastics and composites are able to bring with their strength-to weight ratio, stiffness-to-weight ratio, becomes even more important,” said Matthew Marks, chair of the ACC’s automotive team, told Plastics News in a phone interview.

Marks said he’s seen the use of plastics in automotive applications double during his 20 years in the industry, but challenges remain for plastics to fully realize their potential.

“The automotive infrastructure and workforce have evolved over the past 100 years to accommodate metals, creating barriers to plastics and polymer composites,” the roadmap reads.

The roadmap calls for more high-profile demonstrations of the capabilities of plastics and polymer composites throughout the supply chain, as well as actions to enhance the system of information around plastics.

“The important piece is to get industry-wide demonstrations, applications and projects identified and working collaboratively with the supply chain, whether it’s tiers or OEMs, showing what the engineers are capable of supplying with the lightweight materials with plastics and composites,” Marks said. “Another area is in the area of material selection and part design. By showing the engineers what you can do with the lightweight materials, with the low specific gravity, high strength, high stiffness that’s capable with some of the polymer composite materials, they’re able to substitute what you would consider traditional materials by making them lighter weight.”

In addition to demonstrations and workforce development, Marks pointed out a need to enhance the knowledge base around plastics through more educational programs for plastics and polymers at the university level.

The roadmap also identifies a challenge in the perception that plastics and polymer composites are not a “premium” material. Developing better tools to model plastic and polymer composite designs will help change this perception, as well as reducing development time to make plastics and polymer composites a more attractive alternative, Marks said.

Though issues continue to be addressed in multi-materials joining and assembly, difficulty in end-of-life recycling and the high cost of some materials, plastics and polymer composites offer a big advantage in the ability to consolidate parts for dramatic weight savings, Marks said.

For example, a single injection-molded plastic part was developed for the front end module of the Ford Taurus, representing a mass reduction of 46 percent, Marks said.

“The ability for parts to be integrated through the injection molding process allows those extra pieces to be eliminated from the manufacturing process,” Marks said. “So it takes out the cost, it takes out the mass associated with that.”

ACC’s full roadmap is available at their automotive plastics website, plastics-car.com.


Comments

Plastics continue to point the way forward for auto industry

By Kerri Jansen
Staff Reporter

Published: April 9, 2014 2:55 pm ET
Updated: April 9, 2014 3:10 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Judge limits scope of jury verdict against JM Eagle

December 19, 2014 2:30 pm ET

A federal judge in Los Angeles said Dec. 18 that last year's jury verdict issued against J-M Manufacturing Co. — now JM Eagle — for...    More

Image

Jarden hiring for new plastics plant

December 19, 2014 1:45 pm ET

Consumer products conglomerate Jarden Corp. is hiring plastics technicians for a new operation in Erlanger, Ky.    More

Image

The return of HPM's big presses

December 19, 2014 11:47 am ET

HPM is back in big injection molding machines.    More

Image

Antimicrobial polymers firm TiFiber launching pilot production in Ark.

December 19, 2014 10:58 am ET

TiFiber Inc., which makes synthetic compounds to control dangerous microorganisms, will locate a pilot production facility and its future company...    More

Image

Spray PU foam aids in NASA launch

December 19, 2014 9:22 am ET

NASA's test of the Orion spacecraft earlier this month took advantage of spray polyurethane foam insulation from North Carolina Foam Industries (NCFI...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events