TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — A natural fiber-reinforced plastic automotive technology was among winners of the third-annual Altair Enlighten Award, created to recognize innovation in automotive weight reduction. Altair Engineering Inc. and the Center for Automotive Research announced the winners Aug. 3 at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
Faurecia SA, along with Automotive Performance Materials, its joint venture with French agricultural cooperative Interval, was named second runner-up for the hemp-reinforced plastic instrument panels, center consoles and door panels in PSA Peugeot-Citroën's 308 production vehicle.
The material, called NafiLean, incorporates hemp-based fiber with polypropylene and can be used in traditional injection machines, Faurecia says. The technology achieved weight savings of 20 to 25 percent compared to a standard plastic, according to Altair.
First place was awarded to Ford Motor Co. for its F-150 pickup, using high-strength aluminum alloys and other technologies to achieve weight savings of 700 pounds. First runner-up was General Motors Co., for its use of computer-aided engineering methods to save 163 pounds on the 2012 Cadillac ATS/CTS.
Plastics were well represented among the award nominees, which included a thermoplastic lift-gate using material from Trinseo SA, appearing in 2015 Renault Espace, and carbon fiber composite grille opening reinforcements on Ford Shelby GT 350 Mustang, a collaboration between BASF SE, Ford and Magna International Inc., among other technologies.
The 3-year-old Altair Enlighten Award had a total of 17 nominations this year, the growth emblematic of a growing emphasis on lightweighting, said Dave Mason, vice president of global automotive at Altair.
As part of its business, which includes using simulation technology to optimize designs, Altair has been involved with automotive lightweighting for decades, Mason said. In the past few years he's seen a shift of interest in lightweighting, producing more real-world examples of composites, more mainstream media attention and more industry focus on weight reduction, such as a dedicated lightweighting session at MBS.
“The fact that we get to come out and talk about what we know and love and that we think is having a big impact is really great,” he said