As General Motors Co. re-establishes itself after bankruptcy, the automaker is continuing a global resin strategy first laid out prior to its 2009 stint under Chapter 11 protection.
The plan is for the Detroit-based automaker to create a portfolio of approved resins it will draw from for products it makes around the world, said Dale Gerard, senior manager for materials in North America, during the Society of Plastics Engineers' Automotive Engineering Plastics Conference, held April 27 in Troy.
Using a common list of resins worldwide allows GM to coordinate global products, Gerard said, while suppliers also know what to expect.
One of the things that we're looking for is common shrinkage to be able to control our tolerances on a global basis with the same type of tooling on a global basis, he said. From a molder's perspective I think that's pretty ideal.
Resin suppliers, meanwhile, will have one common set of specifications that their materials must match, rather than creating blends that meet up to five different regional requirements that could vary widely. GM in Latin America recently reduced the number of materials it had to oversee from 47 down to 11.
It's a lot easier from a supplier's basis to manage the business, as well as it is from the [automaker's] perspective, Gerard said.
With fewer complications, global product development and car launches can go more smoothly because everyone is working from the same unified playbook. Global developments are a major thrust for GM as it creates future vehicles.
The carmaker also wants to create those vehicles faster by using advanced computer engineering and design, he said. Computer-aided engineering and design, in turn, require more data on how materials will perform in any given situation, which comes back to the global resin strategy.
What we're really trying to do is ... standardize work in the various regions so we can validate our products in one region to cover the needs for another region, he said. The specifications we're talking about for materials here, we're also putting into product development with the idea of moving as much work as we can off the road and into the lab.
Ideally, Gerard said, the company may one day be able to do large pieces of product validation in a computer, rather than spending time and money creating full prototypes.
What we have in GM is a material property database on a global basis.
Even as General Motors looks globally and draws more and more information on materials it is already using, it also is asking resin suppliers to continue research that will help bring more products and materials to the market.
For instance, the company currently has developments in progress for a plastic structural oil pan and a timing-chain cover two parts that would replace existing metal parts at a 50 percent weight reduction.
There is a lot of engineering going on to make this happen, Gerard said, adding that the two engine parts must meet performance requirements that would have them stand up to 200,000 miles' worth of driving.
It also is pushing thermoplastic olefin makers to come up with improved interior and exterior materials with 35 percent more stiffness than existing offerings, and better mold-flow rates and temperature performance.
That would give us the ability, if we hit these targets, to be able to pursue one tool for [bumper fascias] with chrome appliqué or paint, he said.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.