Thermoplastic materials have enjoyed increasing popularity in automotive manufacturing. Current environmental and economic concerns additionally raise the awareness of the various advantages of the material. The targets to lower fuel consumption and thus, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can be achieved by using more and more lightweight materials like thermoplastics in today’s cars.
Thermoplastics boast several benefits for automotive manufacturing
Due to their low weight, thermoplastics are a popular material in the automotive industry. It allows for substitutional freedom in the design of parts and components allowing the development of forms that would not be possible with any other material. Additionally, integration of different functionalities such as sensors or electric wiring provides many opportunities for the automotive industry. This, in turn, influences the economic benefits of using thermoplastics. By integrating functions into a thermoplastic part, the assembly costs decrease leading to an overall beneficial effect on productivity.
Here are the Top 7:
Most thermoplastic parts and components in the automotive industry are made of polypropylene. The material boasts several advantages including improved strength, stiffness and temperature capabilities. Therefore, it is prevailingly used for automotive bumpers and battery boxes. The material is further extremely chemically resistant, which allows the use in chemical tanks in under the hood applications.
Polyurethanes feature a variety of properties. They appear flexible and soft or rigid and hard in the automotive industry. The material is highly abrasion resistant, but lacks favorable properties when in contact with sunlight or organic solvents. Insulation materials in cars are mainly made of rigid polyurethane foams due to their low heat transfer and good cost effectiveness. Flexible polyurethanes are used for seating applications.
This thermoplastic offers a wide range of properties depending on its production processes. Due to its high impact and moisture resistance, it is used for car bodies (glass reinforced) and electrical insulation applications.
Around 12% of thermoplastic parts and components in the automotive industry are manufactured from polyamide. The material (reinforced by fiberglass) is mainly used for applications under the engine hood as the material absorbs water easily. Thus, the material is not suitable for applications in which dimensional stability is strictly required.
ABS (Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer)
The styrene included in this durable thermoplastic gives the material a shiny and impervious surface. A wide range of modifications to ABS can improve toughness, heat and impact resistance. The material can be found in the car interior like dashboards, covers and linings.
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
Polyvinyl chloride is either rigid or flexible depending on the amount and type of plasticizers used. Due to its good resistance to chemicals and good thermal stability, the material is used for chemical tanks and internal linings and coatings of electric cables in vehicles.
The material has the lowest share of the top 7 thermoplastics in automotive manufacturing. The transparency levels of PC are almost as good as in PMMA, but PC has a superior scratch and shatter resistance. Thus, the material is preferred for headlamp lenses and security screens in automobiles.
PMMA, PS, POM, ASA and PBT are categorized as other as their individual shares are significantly lower than any other thermoplastic material in automotive manufacturing. The materials have different advantages and disadvantages, but can be found in specific under the hood parts and components like housings, gears and valves.
Thermal properties are decisive factors in automotive applications
Thermal properties of polymers play a decisive role in the development and material selection process of automotive parts and components. Easy and fast determination of these properties is key to achieve a competitive position in the automotive industry. Read more on the use of thermal analysis instrumentation to analyze materials for the use in your parts and components.
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