Challenges Facing Automotive Thermoplastics

Challenges Facing Automotive Thermoplastics

Image Credit: NETZSCH-Gerätebau GmbH

The role of plastics has gained significant importance throughout automotive engineering. Early production in the 1950s saw the production of metallic titans, but since then cars have been remodeled to be more lightweight, sleek modern versions of their former selves. Substitute metal with thermoplastics is a process that started in the 1900s.

The amount of plastics found in a car today weighs up to around 160 kg. In 1960, only 10 kg of plastics were incorporated in the build of a typical automobile. The material does not only act as a superficial design element to make cars appear to be sleeker and more agile. More importantly, thermoplastics provide a significant boost to fuel efficiency due to their light weight. The constant evolution of the automotive industry often brings with it many challenges for suppliers and OEMs. To remain a vital part of the future automotive ecosystem, they proactively have to tackle five central challenges.

Challenge #1: Cost Pressure

With the number of thermoplastic parts in automobiles ever-increasing, suppliers are forced to adapt their manufacturing methods. Additionally, OEMs cut prices over and over while simultaneously demanding consistent delivery of high-quality products. The polymer manufacturing process and tooling have become difficult and complex tasks to meet the strict requirements and still siphon off tiny margins while balancing appropriate material. Making analyses of material properties in advance significantly lowers the risk of scrap production and defect.

Challenge #2: Lack of Precise Material Data

The deliveries of raw materials generally include certificates of analysis. However, the documents only outline the basic parameters of tolerances that are often inadequate when correctly processing the material. Therefore, gaining access to more specific and precise data of a material is often attached to additional charges. Suppliers must be able to determine material characteristics of their own volition to circumvent the strain of purchasing additional services from raw material manufacturers.

Challenge #3: Severe Consequences of Product Liability

Customers face very real and serious dangers when faced with defective thermoplastic parts in automobiles. Once a part fails, the recall of millions of cars is necessary while the search for the cause begins. It is vital to get relevant insights into the history of materials. Comprehensive material knowledge is a prerequisite for failure analysis of thermoplastic parts, which requires the assistance of sophisticated analytical instrumentation to fend off any product liability charges.

Challenge #4: Disruptive Mobility Concepts

Buzzwords and technology are used in daily news, including ‘autonomous driving’, ‘e-mobility’ and ‘connected car’. What does this mean for the materials required in the manufacture of future automobiles? To deliver integrated functionalities, materials and thermoplastic parts need to be modified. Designing and qualifying intelligent materials and parts pose a challenge to suppliers and OEMs throughout the automotive industry. Analyses of material properties is the first step to excel and gain advantage in this enterprise.

Challenge #5: Upcoming Legal Requirements

Today’s consumers and the general public are majorly concerned with the environment. The consequence of this is that legislation has started to issue new requirements in many industries. Automotive suppliers and manufacturers need to modify and transform their products to meet strict weight reduction and fuel consumption requirements. Therefore, new materials and streamlining the design and production process are of utmost importance. To efficiently react and adapt to changes in the legal environment, thermal analysis assists in the reengineering and qualifying of thermoplastics.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by NETZSCH-Gerätebau GmbH.

For more information on this source, please visit NETZSCH-Gerätebau GmbH.

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