The SMC Automotive Alliance has tapped a Detroit firm to pick up its recycling project for sheet molding compounds. The program suffered a setback April 1, when Phoenix Fibreglass Inc. of Oakville, Ontario, closed because of low demand for recycled SMC.
Now, R.J. Marshall Co. of Detroit has been tapped by the 26-member alliance to recycle SMC, and early test runs to qualify parts have encouraged officials.
Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning, owner of Phoenix, said automakers have not been convinced of any performance or cost benefit of using filler derived from recycled SMC.
However, Jim Grzelak, SMC Automotive Alliance chairman, said the work done at Phoenix proved recycling SMC is feasible.
``Nothing was lost from SMC's standpoint,'' he said in a Sept. 24 interview. ``We had good material and we had the capability of making an ample supply. But the market was not there to sustain operations.''
Marshall, already a supplier of fillers to the plastics industry, gives the alliance time to work with automakers on ways to broaden its application of the material because it does not need to rely on SMC business or price supports from composite molders to survive, said co-owner Dick Marshall.
Phoenix also was burdened by start-up costs and having to learn the process, he said.
``The significance now is that everyone here wants to do it [recycle SMC], rather than feeling forced to do it. There's no political agenda here,'' Marshall said.
SMC's top priority is to get recyclates flowing back into the auto industry through parts approval, said Grzelak, sales engineer for Eagle-Picher's Plastics Division.
``We have to keep chipping away at the automakers' traditional thought. We need to tell them our story that recycled SMC is as good as virgin materials,'' Grzelak said.
Two weeks ago, Marshall received small production specifications for an automobile engine part for one of the Big Three automakers, Marshall said. Other test runs on some parts could take up to two years, he said.
Marshall has 70 employees in three facilities, including a laboratory in Detroit and manufacturing plants in Rockwood and Erie, Mich.
SMC recycling mainly produces a mixture of finely ground glass fibers and thermoset particles suitable to replace up to half the calcium carbonate filler in SMC. Filler is used to increase the volume of a given amount of a more expensive resin.
Besides educating Big Three executives and engineers, the alliance will try to get body shops involved in shipping damaged fenders, deck lids and hoods to a collection point as a supply of post-consumer composite.