Facilitating Global Innovation & Partnering

Industry Expertise

Automotive Materials & Technologies

It is important to monitor trends and developments in the global auto industry because they are forerunners of materials and technologies that will ultimately be used in other industries as well. Change in the auto industry is driven by the need to lower material and labor costs while complying with more stringent environmental regulations. Some examples of new material and technology advances in the auto industry that are applicable to other industries include:

  • The high costs of maintaining paint shops and managing VOCs and waste have led to the emergence of several excellent technologies:
    • In-mold coatings that decorate the part during the molding process.
    • Paint films are thermoformed and inserted into the mold prior to injecting the thermoplastic.
    • New plastics have been developed, such as DuPont’s Surlyn Reflection Series, that can be colored and injection molded. Surface quality and appearance match painting.
    • Electrically-conductive plastics and electrostatic painting minimize waste and VOCs.
  • Parts consolidation reduces manufacturing costs by combining them into a single component. To achieve this, in many cases “robust” plastics have the range of properties provided by several different plastics or grades. This has the potential to reduce inventories and gain the benefit of lower prices due to volume purchases. The auto industry also combines parts and components into modules, such as the front end of a vehicle or a complete instrument panel, to reduce assembly-line costs.
    • Robust polymers are being used for injection molding of large parts, where excellent flow properties (low viscosities) are required to fill the mold while retaining the high product performance specified for the part.
    • Certain large parts that are normally made by injection molding are candidates for a thermoforming process, which is less capital intensive (no costly molds) and has lower operating pressures. Robust polymers that can be extruded and thermoformed, yet have the property profile of the injection molding grade, are required.
  • The potential for recycling is enhanced by adapting one family of plastics, such as polypropylene, to a range of applications in a system such as auto interiors or instrument panels.