A skewed risk-reward relationship is limiting major innovations in automotive plastics, according to a German executive of Styron Corp.
Dagmar Van Heur, vice president of Styron's automotive business in Schwalbach, Ger- many, outlined eight applications that he said could cut 50 pounds from a car's weight. Making cars lighter is an important way to meet stricter standards under corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE. Styron is a division of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co.
Van Heur said everyone involved in a weight-saving innovation needs to be fairly compensated, as a reward for taking a risk with new technology and applications. Engineers fully understand the value of lightweighting, he said in a May 17 presentation at Antec 2010 in Orlando.
But the part buyers have only one value, he said. That's getting parts at a lower price.
One example is a front-end carrier, which holds the lighting and bumper, made out of a long-glass-fiber-reinforced polypropylene with a few metal components.
For another part blow molded rear-seat backs Dow won a 2006 safety award from the Society of Plastics Engineers' Automotive Division.
Dow developed the blow molded seat back, and then marketed it to the auto industry.
But Van Heur said the auto industry needs some changes to make innovation easier. If a part has to be both lighter and cheaper such as the plastic seat back the industry needs to approach parts sourcing in a much more integrated fashion, more closely linked to the tier suppliers and developers of technology, he said.
People at firms that innovate are more willing to develop major new applications if they feel they will be rewarded, he said.
Dow is selling Styron, its styrenics and polycarbonate business, to Bain Capital LLC.
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