DEARBORN, MICH. (May 18, 1:55 p.m. ET) — Auto supplier Faurecia SA is developing a system to injection mold using natural fibers, potentially replacing existing compression molded parts.
Faurecia's natural fibers for injection process — NAFI — uses in-line compounding to add fibers such as hemp or kenaf to polypropylene to reinforce parts in place of heavier glass. The company, with global headquarters in Nanterre, France, already has validated door panels produced using the method, said Sébastian Kah, eco-design leaders for Faurecia Interior Systems, during the WardsAuto Interiors Conference on May 17 in Dearborn.
The company expects to complete validation of an instrument panel using natural fiber injection molding later this year, he said.
Most natural fiber auto parts now in use are compression molded and are not visible. A typical use now is for package trays at the rear of the passenger compartment or for door panel substrate. In both cases, they are covered with fabric or other trim.
Faurecia has developed concept interiors that show natural fiber composites, although carmakers could also opt to cover them just as they now cover traditional plastic substrates. Those parts could be produced using the NAFI process, Kah said, with natural fibers added to PP in the press.
During in-house development Faurecia has seen a 25 percent weight savings compared to parts using glass fiber reinforcement.
Faurecia would be able to use a variety of natural fibers, Kah said, using the best material from local sources. That would increase the flexibility for production in multiple global locations.