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Passenger cars must become lighter, yet without compromising safety. Weight is an important contributor to the fuel consumption of a car. Lighter vehicle components reduce fuel consumption. Considerable weight reduction is also key to the market adoption of electric drive systems which are heavier than traditional petrol engines.
Hi-tech plastics, the lightweight alternative
Polyamides and polybutylene terephthalates are versatile materials applied to modern automobiles, where they are used in electronic systems, air and fluid lines, and weight-saving bodywork components. High-tech plastics from LANXESS that are based on polyamides (PA) and polybutylene terephthalates (PBT), which represent a lighter-weight plastic alternative to metals such as steel or aluminum, fulfill the exact requirements of many components of both commercial vehicles and passenger cars.
Produced by the High-Performance Materials (HPM) business unit of LANXESS, the two plastic product lines are marketed under the name Durethan® (PA 6 and PA 66) and Pocan® (PBT). In the automobile industry, Pocan® and Durethan® are increasingly replacing metals as a weight-saving alternative, especially under the hood, where materials must stand up to heat, aggressive chemicals and continual vibration.
What’s more, LANXESS materials can be used to directly mold many functional parts such as fastening elements, guides and contact surfaces when injection molding is used to manufacture components. This functional integration shortens subsequent assembly times, simplifies logistics and lowers manufacturing costs. They can be found, for example, in engine bearings, door structures, front ends and seat cross-members.
Judging from the raw materials, both PA 6 and PA 66 enjoy high-degree mechanical strength and stiffness, good electrical insulating properties, amazing heat, chemical and wear resistance, superb frictional and dry-running properties, noise absorption and vibration damping ability.
Moreover, the products of the Durethan® series adopt advanced hybrid technology developed by LANXESS and its partners, the classic variant of which has already proved its worth millions of times in highly stressed automobile front ends. Thanks to the continual refinement of this technology, it is also heading for a bright future. Steel and aluminum sheets can now be replaced by considerably lighter polyamide composite sheets. These lightweight but strong semi-finished products are made of a glass fiber fabric embedded in a polyamide matrix.
Having gained a high reputation for both its reinforced and non-reinforced versions, Durethan® products are widely used in the automotive industry such as connectors, cable clips, plug connectors, gearwheels, door handles, mirror housing, oil modules, parts of cooling circuit like header tanks, cooling pipes, thermostat housings; as well as profiles, hollow parts and pipes for the automotive cooling circuit.
Within the Durethan® series, three grades, namely Durethan® ECO BV 30 H2, ECO BV 35 H2 and ECO PA GF 30, containing 30% pre-consumer recyclate, are worth special consideration. Benefitting from hybrid technology, they reduce weight of certain structural components by up to 50%, making vehicles much lighter but with higher performance. Weight reduction embodies enormous value on environmental protection by increasing fuel efficiency and lessening CO2 emission of cars and trains . Furthermore, these lightweight materials offer greater flexibility and open up a whole host of new design options.
Looking ahead, electric vehicles are gradually turning from mere concepts into reality. The regulations on limiting cars’ CO2 emissions imposed by the European Commission are also boosting the development and construction of electric vehicles, in which high-tech plastics such as Durethan® will play a decisive role.
Pocan® is another internationally established brand, which reduces vehicle weight by replacing metal components with much lighter anti-rust counterparts. In addition to weight reduction, Pocan® generates little waste because it requires no reworking and can be used without a coating based on certain requirements. New design options can be realized in combination with a higher degree of functionality compared to other materials. Besides, particularly easy-flowing PBT grades are opening up new markets because they help cut the cost of injection molding thanks to their shorter cycle times.
Pocan® marks an ideal material for producing switches, lamp sockets, electric plugs and plug connectors that are found in cable harnesses. Blends containing PBT can also be used in many different ways during the production of paneling/moldings and add-on body parts for truck cabs. These include booster modules in start-stop systems, fenders, wind deflectors, A-pillars, access steps, radiator grilles and bumpers. Commercial vehicle manufacturers like Volvo and IVECO also use plastics from LANXESS to make radiator grilles and bumpers.