Plastic Car Chassis - A Greener Alternative to Metals - News Item

With car manufacturers facing tougher legislation intended to make cars ‘greener’, special plastic car chassis that would be strong, light and easy to recycle could soon be rolling off the production line.

Researchers at a Midlands university have been working on new ways of producing ultra-strong plastics for more than a year under a project called APPLE – the Advanced Polymeric Composite Panels with Low Environmental Impact.

Normally making complex composite plastic components is a time-consuming process which means that the finished products are too expensive to mass-produce.

But the APPLE research at Warwick University’s Advanced Technology Centre has already solved many of the practical problems and scientists and engineers are now looking at ways of making a range of structures out of plastics which can be easily recycled at the end of their working lives.

The research has already had other spin offs, such as a business which makes workmen’s protective boots with strong laminated plastic toe protectors. Unlike the normal mild steel protectors, the plastic versions are non-magnetic – a boon to their use in many industries.

Further research is looking at the production of special plastic shieldings for the inside of tanks and other military vehicles.

While the advantages of the new manufacturing techniques are that it is quicker, easier and cheaper than conventional laminate production methods, the new material mixes are free of bad toxins and are easy to re-cycle.

Characteristics of the plastic laminate structures the research team is producing are that they can be stronger than steel, have great durability and can be easily re-cycled. This means that automotive body panels would not only be strong but would absorb the type of impacts that would normally see a metal-panelled car go into the body shop for repairs.

APPLE is one of the research projects of Foresight Vehicle, an industry-backed initiative led by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). There are currently over 400 UK companies participating in the Foresight Vehicle Initiative.


Posted March 15th, 2004


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