INDIANAPOLIS - Low weight, high strength and better aesthetics are key reasons why plastics' use is expanding in heavy-duty buses, earth-moving equipment and trains, according to several speakers May 10 at the ANTEC '96 Super Session in Indianapolis. David West, director of product engineering for Nova Bus Inc., noted that his industry is challenged by a government mandate to reduce the present transit bus curb weight of 27,000 pounds by 2,000 pounds a year during the next several years.
He said plastics will be part of the answer, particularly as the industry moves to electric buses, which must be much lighter in weight.
West, who is involved in future design and development projects ranging from hybrid electric vehicles to composite structures, described his industry as friendly to recycled material.
High-performance thermoplastics are sought by Caterpillar Inc., according to Alan M. Dickey, division manager of the company's chemical products business unit. Caterpillar, which produces $15 million a year in high-performance, proprietary plastics components, has been building a portfolio of alliances with plastics companies and universities in recent years, Dickey said.
The company uses plastics for items ranging from seal rings and fan shrouds to cab skirts and vehicle flooring. Dickey said more plastics could be used as structural covers and hydraulic tanks by Caterpillar.
The heavy-equipment manufacturer needs a high-performance resin that can be injection molded at low cost, according to Dickey, with the attributes of thermal stability, creep resistance, stiffness, impact strength and fluid compatibility.
Amtrak's chief designer, Cesar Vergara, said Amtrak has no research and development budget, which along with funding issues makes it a pragmatic user of plastics.
The need for lower maintenance and fuel costs, for example, has driven Amtrak to use plastics for better aesthetics and interior durability of rail cars, according to Vergara.