BERLIN (Sept. 8, 1:15 p.m. ET) — Materials supplier Sabic Innovative Plastics is becoming a shareholder in Inpro, a German automotive technology and innovation company, the two companies announced Sept. 7.
Other shareholders in Inpro include Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG, electrical and electronics company Siemens AG, steel company ThyssenKrupp AG and the federal German state of Berlin.
Berlin-based Inpro — the company's full name is Innovationsgesellschaft für fortgeschrittene Produktionssysteme in der Fahrzeugindustrie mbH — was founded in 1983. It focuses on developing new technology for the auto industry.
At a Sept. 7 briefing in Berlin, Inpro managing director Gerd Esser said the firm currently if focused on electro-mobility and new automotive drive systems such as batteries and fuel cells.
Greg Adams, Sabic's vice president for automotive, said the full agreement should be effectively closed “sometime in October,” while a joint communication says it will officially close before the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval.
Plastics and paint materials supplier BASF SE was a shareholder in Inpro - through BASF Coatings - from 2001 until the end of 2010. IWKA group, which owns robotic specialist company Kuka, has also been a past shareholder in Inpro.
Inpro helped BASF develop back-molded painted film moldings that match painted steel bodywork. In 2008, this technique was applied to the black thermoplastic injection molded roof element, made by Decoma, between the windscreen and roof opening of the VW Passat CC car.
Inpro's projects have also included optimization of online painting process chains and simulation of sheet metal forming.
Günter Walz, a vice president at Mercedes-Benz, represents Daimler on the Inpro supervisory board, and at the briefing he welcomed Sabic as shareholder, highlighting the company's involvement in glazing and lightweight composite solutions.
Walz told European Plastics News that a lack of simulation software for carbon fiber composites has limited the wider use of it in cars. Also, the automotive industry would prefer the cycle time for epoxide resins cut to several seconds, rather than minutes.
Although stakeholder ThyssenKrupp did not attend the Berlin briefing, a statement in connection with the event noted the potential for “R&D in plastic/metal hybrid components” through Sabic's shareholding in Inpro.
Mercedes-Benz's Walz rejected a suggestion that the announcement the previous week of an exclusive development co-operation between Daimler and BASF on the Smart Forvision car could conflict with Sabic and Daimler's involvement as Inpro shareholders.
He added: “Partner projects will only involve those things that do not mean competitive disadvantage in innovation platforms. It is more about opportunity than risk.”
Adams stressed that Sabic is widening its already wide plastics product portfolio beyond its traditional engineering thermoplastics and polyolefin materials. The company is now looking at new acrylic, carbon fiber composite and elastomeric materials.
Adams cited examples in Sabic materials used in auto applications including integration of mirror, rear light and spoiler functions in polycarbonate glazing, integration of lighting in fenders, and replacement of the central steel plate in steering wheels that “will be in production very soon.”