Ford Motor Co. has been giving its MyFord Touch communication interface system the star treatment, trumpeting it at electronics and automotive trade shows and in advertising, and featuring it in product placement shots on television.
The company boasts that the system which mirrors MyLincoln Touch in its Lincoln-brand vehicles reduces driver distraction simply by placing the most-used controls at easy access points. But for the plastics industry, the system also indicates changes happening that most drivers probably aren't aware of yet.
We're thinking about how electronics are used inside the vehicle, and the way in which plastics are playing a part in it, Amanda Roble, Americas manager for Sabic Innovative Plastics, said in a Jan. 13 interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Ford drivers already are taking advantage of Pittsfield, Mass.-based Sabic's plastics when they use the MyFord Touch screen with its Lexan polycarbonate cover, which is also used on the upgraded Sony audio system. The transparent plastic allows drivers to easily view the commands beneath it for audio controls, interior temperature adjustments and the like.
But beneath that shiny exterior are even more uses for new plastics.
All those new electronics take up space that used to be available for wiring and connectors. Sabic has upgraded its Noryl GTX, a blend of polyamide and modified polyphenylene ether resins, to allow auto suppliers to produce thinner and lighter wiring and smaller wiring harnesses. That takes weight out at the same time it clears room, Roble said.
Automakers also are looking for more materials that can withstand higher voltage and for flame-retardant compounds, for current and future electronics both for gadgets and in hybrid and electric vehicles, she said.
The next couple of years, a lot of the [carmakers] are going to request of plastics suppliers even more innovation in weight and creature comforts and adapting new technology, Roble said.