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Polymers in Automobiles. Candace “Mustang” DeMarti Henry “Firebird” Antonovich Kevin “Camaro” Reinhart. Overview. Plastics vs. Metals Polymer Applications in Automobiles - Instrument Panels - Engine - Windows - Tires - Body Panels. Why use plastics?.

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Polymers in automobiles

Polymers in Automobiles

Candace “Mustang” DeMartiHenry “Firebird” AntonovichKevin “Camaro” Reinhart


  • Plastics vs. Metals

  • Polymer Applications in Automobiles- Instrument Panels- Engine- Windows- Tires- Body Panels

Why use plastics
Why use plastics?

  • Oil Embargo (1970’s) and Japanese Competition

  • Compete with other materials based on:

    • Weight savings

    • Design flexibility

    • Parts consolidation

    • Ease of fabrication

Instrument panels ip
Instrument Panels (IP)

  • Polycarbonate/ABS resins

  • Introduction of airbags in IP design

  • Injection Molding vs. Blow Molding


  • ULTEM polyetherimide (PEI) resin to replace aluminum under the hood for 1st time

  • High-performance amorphous resin from GE

  • Complete air management modules can be made of thermoplastic

Throttle Body

Body panels
Body Panels

  • Plastic Body Panels - Chevy Corvette since 1953

Sheet Steel - still most commonly used for vehicle body structure

Aluminum- weighs less but costs more

Plastics - increasingly used for metals parts replacement

Choosing a material
Choosing a material:

1. Cost

2. Flexural Modulus

3. Coefficient of Thermal Expansion

4. Chemical Resistance

5. Impact Resistance

6. Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT)

Polymers in automobiles

  • Better color match

  • Incorporate in existing facilities

  • Assembly line temperatures exceed 200oCAlloys:

  • Polyphenylene ether/polyamide ABS/Polyesters

  • ABS/Polycarbonates

  • Larger choice in materials

  • Additional steps take time

  • More plastics will enter the market as assembly lines are redesigned

“On-line” vs. “Off-line” painting

Sheet molding compound smc
Sheet Molding Compound (SMC)

  • Highly cross-linked and highly filled

  • Polymer component is polyester

  • Suitable of compression molding

  • Molded product combined high modulus with high strength

  • Body panels (hoods and deck lids)

  • More expensive than metal, but lower tooling cost

Applications of smc
Applications of SMC

  • Bottom line benefits

    • Tooling for SMC hood was 23% of steel

    • Weight savings of 18%

  • Growth of applications

    • - Body panels on GM’s Lumina, TransPort, and Silhouette

    • - Structural components - valve covers, grille- opening reinforcements, fascia supports, etc.

  • 250 million lbs. of SMC was used in 1997

Applications of smc1
Applications of SMC

  • Composite front fenders and hood design for 1995 Lincoln Continental

  • Result of need for lighter-weight and more cost efficiency integrated system

  • SMC fenders and hood

  • Bottom line benefits:

    • SMC fender tooling was 40% of projected tooling for steel fenders

    • Comparative weight saving was 33%

Solitary bumper beam
Solitary Bumper Beam

  • For 1997 Saturn coupe

  • Injection molded from GE Plastics’ Xenoy 1102

  • Single part that replaces functions of 17 parts on previous system

  • To absorb impact, specially designed molded-in towers crush upon impact


  • Toughened Safety Glass (TSG)- tempered glass

  • Laminated Safety Glass (LSG)- two panes of glass bonded together using polyvinylbutyral

Tire components
Tire Components

  • Tread

  • Sidewall

  • Bead-high tensile brass-plated steel coated with rubber

  • Radial Ply-belts ofrubber coated cord

  • Innerliner

  • Reinforcing Fillers-carbon black

  • Chemicals-antidegradants, curitives

Elastomers in tires
Elastomers in Tires

  • Natural Rubber (NR)

  • Polyisoprene Rubber (IR)

  • Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR) - 1.89 billion lbs/yr (1993)

  • Polybutadiene Rubber (BR) - 1.03 billion lbs/yr (1993)

Natural rubber nr
Natural Rubber (NR)

  • 99.99% cis Polyisoprene

  • Good low temperature flexibility.

  • Low Tg (-65 C). Low heat buildup.

  • 200,000 to 400,000 MW. Easy Processing.

  • Has high tensile and tear properties. Stress crystallizes.

  • Excellent dynamic fatigue

  • Poor resistance to oxygen, ozone, hydrocarbon solvents and heat.

Polyisoprene rubber ir
Polyisoprene Rubber (IR)

  • Same cis structure as NR, but also contains low levels of 3,4 and trans 1,4 polyisoprene.

  • Above structures prevent stress crystallization and thus has lower tensile and tear properties.

  • 300,000 to 500,000 MW.

  • Other properties similar to NR .

Polybutadiene rubber br
Polybutadiene Rubber (BR)

  • Good low temperature flexibility.

  • High abrasion resistance.

  • Low heat buildup.

  • Low tensile strength. Generally blended with SBR or NR.

  • Improves aging resistance of NR.

Styrene butadiene rubber sbr
Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR)

  • Dynamic properties determined by styrene, 1,4 and 1,2 butadiene levels.

  • Improved strength, abrasion resistance, and blend compatibility over BR alone.

  • Addition of styrene results in lower cost and contributes to the good wearing and bonding characteristics.