New plastics are helping OEMs to reduce both weight and costs. Automotive Industries talks to Walter Baumann, Vice-President, Borealis Engineering Applications Business Unit, about some of the trends.
AI: What then are the trends driving the use of plastic products in areas like off-line painted body panels, materials for d-LFT process and scratch resistance materials for car interior and exterior?
Baumann: Clearly the perennial search for weight saving and an overall reduction in system cost are the main drivers within the industry and plastics offer the best potential for achieving these objectives. In interior and under-bonnet applications, with the introduction of new polypropylene materials utilising a direct LFT additive package, it is possible to simplify processing while achieving the optimum stiffness and impact strength required. The development of the Daplen thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) family has enabled us to offer OEMs a single standardised material for a broad range of interior applications.
AI: Where do you see the biggest potential for growth both in the short and long-term?
Body panels and structural parts represent the area of longer-term growth. Essentially these developments stem from new concepts and new vehicle models and the time from drawing board to production has a much longer cycle.
AI: What is the basis and what are the benefits of your new Borcom microcomposites?
Baumann: Borcom utilises special base polymers with up to 10% selected micro-scale filler. According to the specific grade of material required for an application it can deliver weight savings of between 5-12% compared with the classical highly filled compounds used by the industry. In addition its excellent mechanical properties are providing a high performance, low weight solution. It also offers improved flowability for easier processing and its close shrinkage compared with alternative materials makes it compatible with existing tools.
AI: How does Borealis work with OEMs to create comfort and safety in vehicle interiors?
Baumann: We have focused on the development of sophisticated multi purpose material that can be used for the complete visible interior, meeting the needs for dashboards but also for door cladding and other applications. To be able to satisfy a range of different criteria, the material must combine a number of properties previously only available from separate materials. Materials that meet the required mechanical criteria have been in the marketplace already for a number of years. The challenge for us has been to combine that performance with surface aesthetics and scratch resistance in one material. We have achieved this with the Daplen TPO family which is able to meet the very high impact demands for airbag shouts and head impact tests, the excellent scratch resistance and low gloss requirements of injection moulded hard dashboards.
AI: You mentioned door cladding that has to resist splintering upon impact/side impact from airbags. Does that require a different material solution?
Baumann: No. The extremely high impact behaviour of Daplen TPO together with its excellent scratch resistance and low gloss provides an optimum solution for both door and pillar cladding applications. The evidence for this is its use in, for example, the Passat, Ford C-max, Lancia Y and BMW 1 series, among others.
AI: How close do you work with the OEMs on developing new technology ? and do you have any success stories?
Baumann: The answer to that is very closely and yes, many successes. One that I can share with you relates to BMW. In developing its first compact class model, the BMW 1 Series, BMW went to great lengths to ensure the five-door sports-hatch radiated both the visual and mechanical excellence of its brand. Characteristically the company?s high standard of engineering was reflected in the rigorous construction materials selection process. In particular it was seeking a zero-gap thermoplastic for the vehicle?s bumpers and rocker panels. BMW wanted a material with low thermal expansion to deliver an extremely small gap between part and car body when attached, but that was also easy to process and gave a paintable class A surface finish. Furthermore, parts moulded from the material had to be tough enough to meet or exceed impact specifications and the material itself had to be recyclable to conform to vehicle end-of-life disposal. Unable to find a standard material that met these criteria Borealis worked with BMW to create one tailored to its needs. This resulted in the development of two new application-specific Daplen TPO grades, a high impact grade, Daplen EE209AE, for the bumper and Daplen EE340E, a high-stiffness grade, specifically for the rocker panel. Of course not every application demands a custom-made product but every challenge does require a tailored solution. In the case of BMW understanding the OEMs precise needs and working with him has enabled us to meet these needs for other applications in both the BMW 1 and BMW 3 Series.
Daplen, Nepol and Borcom are trademarks of Borealis A/S, Denmark.