The struggle is real. The actors in the automotive supply chain are constantly forced to keep up with changing requirements in their industry. Higher fuel efficiency, weight minimization, technological innovations bring about environmental regulations and policies that need to be considered in the design of automotive parts and components. The topic has moved into the public eye and thus, has become a major driver of legal changes in the automotive industry.
Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and bring down fuel consumption by reducing the weight of vehicles are the result. The development of new materials and the re-design of existing thermoplastics parts and components is necessary to meet both upcoming legal requirements and the expectations of customers.
Three things to keep in mind during the design of lightweight parts
The required design of polymer parts and components should take three key principles:
- The new and lighter material cannot be priced at significantly higher prices as the original material as the automotive industry acts in a highly price-sensitive environment. Therefore, expensive materials will not be selected for the design of automotive parts and components.
- Alternative materials together with new designs need to adhere to the strict safety standards in the automotive industry. For instance, it needs to absorb the energy of the impact and withstand specific service temperature ranges.
- In accordance with the popular concept of circular economy, new materials, parts and components need to be easy to recycle in order to protect natural resources and the environment.
Consider essential material criteria
Thermal, chemical and mechanical resistance as well as easy manufacturing and durability are key selection criteria for materials for parts and components in the automotive industry. In a first step, analysis of these properties is essential to qualify new materials for the application in cars.
Rethink material, design and production process
Weight reduction can be achieved by adjusting three elements of the design process of polymer parts and components in the automotive industry.
- Use lower density materials like polymers or composites that achieve the same rigidity and durability as previously used materials
- Optimize the design of load bearing components to reduce weight without losing rigidity and functionality
- Optimize the production process of polymer parts and components
Qualify lightweight solutions efficiently with thermal analysis
Thermal analysis can help you in every step of the way. Appropriate instruments give insights into the ability of new materials to accommodate stress at different temperatures, if the material maintains its stability in different liquids found in cars or the expansion of materials at different temperatures. Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) and Thermomechanical Analysis (TMA) allow identification of these crucial properties.
A solution for the optimization of the production process of polymer parts is to reduce the scrap rate. By monitoring the curing process of a material, e.g., an epoxy resin, you avoid inferior quality of parts that did not achieve the right level of cure in the machine. Dielectric Analysis (DEA) is the right approach here.
By incorporating different thermal analysis instruments into the material selection and design process for automotive parts and components, you can efficiently react and adapt to changes in the legal requirements for fuel consumption and weight reduction and the related customer expectations.
Continue reading our automotive blog series by subscribing to our newsletter.