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Plastics are being given a makeover as their use grows in vehicle design and component structure. Already, plastics account for 50% of the materials used by the automotive industry – but just 10% of the weight.

Suppliers of plastics are now being challenged to develop sustainable and recyclable materials that meet ever greater performance standards. In response to this trend, Life sciences and material sciences company Royal DSM earlier this year launched a new brand – Bright Science. Brighter Living to inculcate a new culture within the company, its clients and suppliers. The rebranding “signaled the first step in the transformation of DSM from a chemical company into a life sciences and materials sciences company, says Feike Sijbesma, CEO and chairman of the DSM managing board.

DSM Composite Resins develops high quality UPR resins such as vinyl esters that are used for the production of fiber-reinforced plastics or non-reinforced filled products in end-use applications such as building & infrastructure, tanks & pipes, cure-in-place pipes, automotive and wind turbine blades. 

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Wilfrid Gambade, DSM business director, composite resins Europe and global markets to tell us more about the company’s automotive sector products.

Gambade: When we talk to OEMs, the message we are hearing loud and clear is the need to improve the performance and reduce the emissions of the vehicles they are producing. This need is becoming increasingly urgent in the context of recent legislation such as – in Europe – the EU’s vehicle CO2 emissions targets and the EU End of Life Vehicle Directive. It is our job to help OEMs meet these new requirements, and we are focusing on innovations that help OEMs make their cars lighter, stronger and better performing. For example, our Turane resins strengthen parts while being very easy to process and cost-effective – thanks to fast processing speeds. They are already being used in racing vehicles and aircraft, where they have helped to create the world’s fastest, most fuel-efficient light aircraft.

Our composite resins’ ability to take punch way above their weight is why they are increasingly being used for key applications, such as the Renault Clio fender support system. However, we are going further than just strength, performance and light weight. We also lead the industry in terms of developing materials that use bio-based, rather than fossil-based ingredients. Palapreg ECO P 55-01 contains 55% bi-renewable content – the highest bio-based content on the market today. We have been able to achieve this without making any sacrifice in terms of processing standards or product performance.

AI: How does DSM work with its OEM customers to develop customized products?

Gambade: Working with our partners is critical if we are to achieve the right blend of innovation to suit their needs. We need to know exactly what performance criteria they are looking for. Likewise, our business needs to be sustainable, so we need to work with our downstream customers to ensure that the market is ready for any innovation that originates from us. This collaboration starts at conception and continues through development to product testing and, finally, marketing. We also work with OEMS on longer-range projects. For example, as the automotive industry increasingly looks to electric cars, light weight and air resistance reduction will be vital as they will directly impact on the performance and lifetime of the battery. Materials are key to the success of these future trends, and we need to be able to demonstrate to our OEM customers that our innovation delivers a core component of their own product.

AI: How are you expanding globally?

Gambade: Our strategy is based on four growth drivers: high growth economies, innovation, sustainability and partnerships and acquisitions. We are currently enjoying robust growth in high-growth economies such as China and India, where we recently entered into a joint venture with Kemrock Industries. In terms of innovation, we have already mentioned our commitment to develop smarter, lighter and stronger materials, are dedicated to being the sustainability leader in our industry. At the corporate level, DSM is placed number one in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. 

AI: Tell us about the thinking behind the Bright Science. Brighter Living™ brand.

Gambade: The re-brand has been extremely helpful in conveying to the outside world – not to mention our 22,000 global employees – our transformation from a chemical company to a life sciences and materials sciences one. Our strategy is based on using our expertise to find solutions to three global trends: shifts in wealth and population; climate change and energy usage; and health and wellness. 

AI then asked Koen Devits, president of DSM Engineering Plastics Americas how important plastics are to the automotive sector.

Devits: The automotive industry is working very hard to improve fuel economy by looking for ways to reduce mass. They are also maximizing space by reducing the size of components. Materials that withstand wear and friction will translate into improved fuel economy and lower carbon footprints. Engine technology is driving improved fuel economy with the implementation of turbo systems, which require higher temperature materials. Increased electronics content also requires high strength and heat resistant materials that take up less space. With an increasing focus on safety, systems require high strength ductile materials to absorb energy to meet demanding standards. Using plastics also makes it easier to manufacture complex designs, which helps push production costs lower. 

AI: What DSM a preferred supplier to automotive OEMs?

Devits: DSM Engineering Plastics is a financially strong global supplier. Research & Technology scientists develop new products to meet and exceed the stated requirements of automotive design engineers. Our strength is in application development. We have application development engineers and business development managers that work directly with our customers to help select and optimize component design. They are application and material experts. Our global development centers use computer aided design capability to further optimize product design. 

AI: Tell us about your product portfolio, and how you plan to expand it.

Devits: DSM Engineering Plastics has a wide product portfolio of polyamide 6, high temperature polyamide 4-6, thermoplastic polyesters, and copolyester elastomers. Akulon nylon compounds are utilized in a host of interior and exterior applications, including air intake manifolds, door handles, airbag canister housings, pedals and brackets, etc. Arnite is a dimensionally stable polyester product line for critical applications such as brake booster valve bodies. Stanyl polyamide 6 is utilized in demanding under-the-hood components such as timing system guide faces and tensioner arms, front end accessory drive bushings and pulleys, electronic throttle control and VIS gears, auto connectors and control modules, and transmission bearing cages. 

Being a life science company, as well as a materials company, we have developed bio-based solutions to meet demanding under-the-hood temperature needs with EcoPaXX ,a new PA4-10 product manufactured from castor bean oils. We have extended our Stanyl product portfolio with Stanyl ForTii which improves dimensional stability with lower CLTE and significantly reduced water absorption. With our customers demanding higher temperature performance, for applications like turbo charger applications, our Stanyl Diablo product technology increases thermal stability out to 5,000 hrs and retains our high temperature product performance. 

AI: What are your global plans?

Devits: DSM is vertically integrated from caprolactam and PA6 polymer in Europe, the US, and China. DSM compounds engineering plastics in Europe, US, China, India, and Japan. We have recently announced a compounding joint venture to supply in Russia, and we are looking to expand compounding operations in Brazil by the end of this year. Our customers are global. We will supply locally.

Palapreg® is a registered trademark.
Brighter Living™ is a trademarked name.

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