As technology lunges forward in leaps and bounds and the global economy struggles to regain its footing, few industries have been challenged to change as much as the automotive industry. Yet plastic manufacturers may have finally touched on a solution although anyone in the automotive industry can tell you that the basic concept is nothing new. Plastics have been used in auto designs for years. It’s the advances made by plastic manufacturers that now offer to breathe new life into one of the businesses hit hardest by the global recession.
The Demands on the Automotive Industry
The presidential administration have challenged the automotive industry to make ambitious strides in developing cars that were more conservative of fuel and the environment. Naturally, consumers echoed the sentiment with a demand for affordable vehicle options. The automotive industry has responded by turning to the tried and true plastics industry. While plastic parts have made cars progressively more fuel-efficient, recent developments in plastics such as 3D-printing technology, design, and composition have heightened the material’s value in the automotive industry. Plastics were already being incorporated in automobile design strongly. The average automobile is comprised of 50% plastic parts, yet the plastic accounts for a mere 10% of the vehicle’s weight. With such impressive statistics, the plans of further incorporating plastic into vehicle design reach well beyond the automotive industry into planes, trains, and a variety of public transit vehicles. The reliance on plastic manufacturers by the automotive industry is only expected to grow as eco-conscious millennials enter the buyer’s market looking for the greenest driving options.
Bio-Based Plastic is Being Used For Auto Exteriors
Chances are that you’ve noticed the generous use of plastic in your car’s interior but plastics are used much more sparingly on the outside. That may soon change as Mazda has partnered with Mitsubishi to forge the world’s premiere bio-based engineering plastic with an eye to use the composition for auto exteriors. To raise the material to automotive industry standards, it was created to resist environmental stress and physical impact. Texture was also a vital factor in synthesizing the bio-based plastic. Mazda pioneered techniques in molding optimization. Engineers also accounted for coloring when applying additives. The plastic is said to have a more pleasing texture than the typical materials used by the automotive industry. The new bio-based plastic should be incorporated in the exteriors of Mazda Roadsters this year. If Mazda’s plastic is as high-quality as early reports indicate, you can expect to watch the rest of the automotive industry follow suit shortly after.
Plastic Manufacturers Collaborate on a Plastic Racing Engine
The racing world was set afire in the ‘80s with the development of the Polimotor 1, a 4-cylinder engine block that heavily incorporated plastic components. With plastic advances in the automotive industry making headlines, the Polimotor program was recently given new life with the development of the Polimotor 2. While the design of the engine precisely mirrors its predecessor, the engineers have taken a cue from the automotive industry plastic trend by planning to incorporate not only more plastic parts but a wider variety of plastic polymers in the Polimotor 2. The carbon-fiber reinforced Polimotor 2 is expected to weigh 30 pounds less than the 168 pound glass-reinforced Polimotor 1. In addition, the Polimotor 2 is predicted to clock between 420 – 450 horsepower at 8000 rpm. Utilizing advances in compression molding and composite polymers, the Polimotor 2 will incorporate moving plastic parts. Up to 10 of the original prototype’s metal parts will be replaced by plastics derived from a variety of 7 thermoplastic polymers. While the racing world is a very specific facet of the automotive industry, it’s still worth noting the far reaching impact of plastic manufacturers.
Currently, plastics manufacturers sit comfortably as the 3rd largest division of US manufacturing industries based on shipping metrics by dollar value. However, the ambitious use of plastic’s innovations in the automotive industry promise to bolster those profits. While plastic manufacturers may not be able to fully restore the automotive industry to lofty past glories, they may have at least pushed it in the right direction.