by Eric Dean, Manager, Global Business Development and Marketing Strategy at LORD Corporation
As plastics become more capable in terms of heat resistance and strength, they are replacing more metal components on vehicles. Both engine and transmission mounts are being made out of nylon. The engine itself – the heaviest, biggest part of your vehicle – is being held on by plastic. The trend toward decreasing vehicle weight – a.k.a. lightweighting – for increased fuel efficiency is part of what is driving this move toward increased use of plastics.
Plastic components are more prevalent in automotive design as the goal for reducing vehicle weight continues to be a top priority in efforts to meet the latest Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards for fuel economy and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This makes the future easier to predict: the automotive industry will continue to increasingly adopt the use of metal-to-plastic hybrid components. Plastics will account for 18 percent of average vehicle weight by 2020, up from 14 percent in 2000, according to the report and analysis Plastics. The Future for Automakers and Chemical Companies.
Global demand for plastics in the automotive industry also has now grown to more than 15 million tons per year, says market research company Ceresana. Despite this growth, there is still some lack of acceptance for plastics replacing metal components.
Remember the Saturn vehicles? Produced from 1982 to 2009, the car’s body panels were made from plastic. It was touted as a selling point, but it also may be what ultimately led to the brand’s demise – the car was not a success because it was made out of plastic.
As the automotive industry embraces and increases use of plastics, challenges come with it. One of the biggest challenges is how to join dissimilar materials in effective – and cost-effective – ways.
Currently, these structural parts are composed of several metal components that are spot-welded, bolted together or joined together with structural adhesives. When implementing plastic components, the attachment features may not be exactly what is desired.
As the industry tries to tackle this challenge and explores bolts, screws and structural adhesives, it creates a big opportunity for in-mold bonding (IMB). This technology enables assemblies between plastics, silicones and metals to be made during the molding process. When LORD IMB Adhesives are applied to a rigid substrate, it provides a structural bond when over-molded with thermoplastic.
As the material make-up of the parts evolve and additional applications for in-mold bonding are developed, this technology can be a solution for these challenges and a method to continue moving the automotive industry forward.
To learn more about the IMB process and its applications, watch this short whiteboard video.