DETROIT - Original equipment automotive parts makers will use 5 percent more sheet molding compound in 1997, boosting total consumption to 250 million pounds, according to a projection from the SMC Automotive Alliance. The increase is particularly significant because the high-volume General Motors Corp. minivan program is converting this year from SMC body panels to stamped sheet metal.
The SMC Automotive Alliance, a Troy, Mich.-based trade group composed of molders and material suppliers, listed 100 new components for 1997 in its annual model-year roundup of SMC applications.
Much of the growth was attributed to the steady increase in part size and the number of new structural components specified in SMC. Automakers are using the thermoset composite for such structural applications as grille opening reinforcements, bumper cover supports and cross-vehicle beams.
But the body panel segment also has grown, particularly in the heavy truck segment. The new Kenworth T-2000 has 800 pounds of SMC, more than any other vehicle. And the redesigned Volvo 2200 has nearly 600 pounds of body panel SMC.
The industry also has found niche applications for materials with special properties, such as flexible, low density and high-heat SMC. And this year, the redesigned Jeep Wrangler features a roof assembly with the first use of pigmented SMC, which eliminates the need for painting the interior.
``That's a tribute to the molders who have developed all the new technology that made these things possible,'' said William Mellian, transportation marketing specialist for Owens Corning, a material supplier.
The SMC Automotive Alliance reported these other new uses for the material in 1997:
Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique: A redesigned front end incorporates an SMC grille opening reinforcement, a structural support that consolidates parts and eliminates the metal brackets that supported the grille, bumper cover and headlamps on the previous model.
Ford F-150/250: The full-size pickup is using SMC valve covers on the 5.4 liter engine. Projected volume is 550,000 units.
Plymouth Prowler: Fully 30 percent of this aluminum-intensive roadster's exterior body panels are SMC, including rear quarter panels, front fender, front quarter extensions, windshield surround, rear valence panel and fuel filler door.
Chevrolet Corvette: GM will make its first use of flexible SMC with the rear quarter fenders and door outer panels on the restyled Corvette when it is introduced early next year. All the Vette's major exterior panels are SMC.