TROY, MICH. — Two companies want to stretch plastic's safety net all around your next automobile. DuPont Automotive and Solutia Inc. recently launched a joint effort to promote the laminated window technology now used in windshields worldwide in side and rear windows.
If the business plan pans out, their Enhanced Protective Glass system could go into 3 million vehicles by 2005, up from 400,000 last year.
"We're getting on more and more vehicles now," Victoria M. Holt, vice president and general manager of Solutia's Saflex division said during a Feb. 7 interview at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Plastics in Automotive Safety Conference in Troy.
"We're already seeing implementation in the European marketplace, and we're expecting that to take off in the United States," said Michael L. Sanders, automotive marketing manager for DuPont.
EPG uses a sheet of polyvinyl butyral, ranging in width from 30- 60 millimeters, between two sheets of glass, laminated under heat and pressure. It's similar to the Saflex system that St. Louis-based Solutia now sells throughout the world for windshields.
The bulk of carmakers use tempered glass on side and rear windows, designed to shatter on impact. EPG, on the other hand, withstands several blows before giving way, Holt said. That reduces the potential for passengers to be ejected from broken windows in crashes, and helps slow car thieves.
About 1,200 people die each year from injuries suffered when they are ejected from windows in crashes, Holt said. The PVB layer also allows the carmaker to tout improved protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays and reduced noise levels.
While laminated glass has gone into windshields for 60 years, manufacturers had problems putting it in other sites around the car, Sanders said. For starters, glass just was too thick — making the windows substantially heavier with the system.
In addition, manufacturers had to deal with windows that rolled up and down in side doors, meaning they were exposed to the elements, Holt said. The companies had to find a way to bind the glass so moisture couldn't seep between the glass panels.
They now have the lamination process needed to stand up to Mother Nature and glass thin enough that there's no increase in weight.
Expanding the system means the PVB could go into up to 6 square meters of glass on each car, up from 1.5 square meters in the windshield alone, Holt said.
The companies introduced EPG last year. It is standard on DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz S Class vehicles and Volkswagen AG's Audi A8, and optional on the Audi A6, Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo S80, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen's Peugeot 206 and 607 in Europe, and DaimlerChrysler's Cirrus and Stratus in Mexico.
The suppliers are pushing the product in the U.S. auto marketplace this year.
"We are amazed at how many companies we go to that are not even aware there is a different system between the front and side [windows]," Holt said.
The companies' studies show consumers are willing to pay up to $400 for the system, according to Holt.