Owens Corning Corp. and Bayer Corp. are out to create a materials road map that will lead more automakers and suppliers to composites.
With its Automotive Solutions business unit, Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning aims to set up a ``materials neutral'' study group that will help the auto industry examine a variety of systems and determine what is best for any particular car or truck.
The idea, said William True, vice president and general manager of Owens Corning's solutions group, is to expose potential customers to the variety of materials out there. As a result, the company hopes to provide an early introduction to potential composites that could benefit resin suppliers as a whole.
``We're not trying to push just resin,'' True said in a July 24 interview. ``We're just not going to push glass resin composites.''
``What we want to be able to do is go in and say to them that, based on their performance needs, cost and weight issues, this or that material is best for you,'' he said.
The company is building a new automotive headquarters in Novi, Mich., to bring it closer to automotive customers. The auto group specialists now are spread around a variety of locations.
At the same time, Owens Corning and Bayer have an alliance to jointly develop long glass-fiber polyurethane systems to both improve the technology and seek new business.
Part of the problem, said Martin Dawson, vice president of Bayer's automotive business group, is that there is such a variety of composite material and systems available.
``It just becomes too complex, so the [auto makers] just say, `To hell with it. Let's just stick with steel. We already know how to use that,' '' he said.
By linking forces, Owens Corning and Bayer both can pursue their specialties but ensure they work well together for the benefit of their customers.
``We'll have all the engineering data available to compare this composite to that composite or that composite to steel,'' Dawson said.
Existing groups such as the Automotive Composites Alliance, can push for composites use in general, but as a trade organization, it does not make recommendations for the use of a particular product. Owens Corning's Automotive Solutions group can do that, and it is staking its reputation on its ability to remain material neutral, True said.
If it solely backs its own products, it will lose respect in the industry and miss out on the long run.
``My No. 1 objective is to improve the market share of composites,'' he said. ``I know that if I have a team that tries to push glass fiber solely because we're concerned about losing our market share for the quarter, that's not going to happen.''
And while the effort is geared on neutrality, both Dawson and True believe the effort will add up for more sales for their companies in the long run, since they can expose automakers and designers to more composites and do it at an earlier stage.
``It's about making it easy for them to get information,'' Dawson said.