As the new president of DuPont Co.'s Performance Polymers division, Patrick Lindner says he sees applications development as a big part of the company's future.
Lindner has been with DuPont since 1996, first working as a chemist in the company's fluoropolymers business and later holding leadership positions in a variety of areas including marketing, corporate plans and DuPont's electronics business.
Plastics News sat down with Lindner to discuss his division's work in automotive plastics.
Q: Tell us about DuPont's work in the automotive industry.
Linder: The automotive industry is a good percentage of our business. That business is so dynamic right now. It went through obviously the downturn in 2008, but it's come back very strong all around the world, and the technology is changing very rapidly. The targets around fuel efficiency are really creating new opportunities for new materials. The U.S. has a target in 2025 of getting to 54.5 miles per gallon; the average in 2013 was about 24 miles per gallon. So you're talking about a huge change over the course of 10 to 12 years to get to those standards. And for us, that means new materials, engines are getting smaller, they're getting hotter, more efficient. … So we're seeing a lot of adoption of our products in those areas.
Q: Lightweighting is really big right now, but it's more than simple material substitution. How is DuPont pushing design for those lightweighting efforts?
Linder: Lightweighting is very important. I've been hearing that from each and every one of our partners, OEMs as well as Tier 1 suppliers in automotive, that managing this is going to be a key way to get fuel efficiency down. So one of the key things for us is that we take a concept from our customer or the OEMs … they'll come to us just with a concept, and then we have the ability to start to model that, and I think this is a real strength of what we do.
We're developing an oil pan application for large trucks that basically takes 50 percent of the weight out of that oil pan. And as you might imagine, one of the critical things to do that [is to] obviously hold the oil, but also so that in a way, since this sits at a place that's exposed to the elements, and very different temperatures, make sure that it has the impact resistance of what a steel-based pan would. Because obviously you don't want to compromise quality in taking the weight out. And so that's an application — we have several others — where we've been able to do that. And those applications, provided they're successful, will continue hopefully well into the future; sometimes these applications go for decades or even longer.