AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — Plastics are continuing to chip away at rubber's dominance in automotive sealing, with processors expecting even more opportunities in the future. Extruder Ligon Bros. Manufacturing Co. recently won a contract to produce a seal, made of a thermoplastic elastomer and polypropylene blend, for the sliding door on an unspecified minivan. It marks the first use of plastics for the seal by a North American automaker.
Mike Miner, sales engineering and marketing analyst for Almont, Mich.-based Ligon Bros., said he expects even more business to come its way as a result of the contract.
Plastics simply offer more benefits, Jeff Raymond, account manager for Advanced Elastomer Systems LP of Akron, Ohio, said June 5 during the American Society of Body Engineers Technology Exchange 2000 in Auburn Hills.
"Any time I get a spec sheet that says rubber, I want to take a look at it," he said. "That's an opportunity for me."
He said TPEs are easier to recycle and offer more processing flexibility and faster cycle times than rubber, which can take four minutes to cure.
Advanced Elastomer has helped develop a plastic reservoir for windshield-washer fluid, producing a single-shot part that replaces a three-piece unit made of rubber and wire mesh. Add in weight savings of as much as 30 percent, and plastics processors can offer up a solid package.
European and Japanese automakers already have moved extensively to plastics, he said.
"We feel that trend is coming to North America," he said. "It's a matter of changing a mind-set of an industry as to whether there is a better way to make those seals."