Heavy metal: DSM extols the virtues of plastic - Supply Side: Plastics
The use of plastics in a typical North American automobile is roughly 260 pounds. And while plastics have gained acceptance in many automotive components and systems, according to Fred Boss, Stanyl product manager at DSM Engineering Plastics, "there is still a lot real estate left."
DSM Engineering Plastics' goal is to reeducate manufacturers and make them aware of the changes in technology that have made plastic engineered parts an alternative for companies currently using metal but would like to reduce weight and lower costs.
"The strength of plastic is there," says Boss. "We can put forth a very good case where cost and packaging is very good for engineered plastic material, yet there is reluctance because of culture. What it boils down to in many cases is there is a risk aversion.
"Some customers have been making a part the same way for a very long time. But now, they might not have the same concerns that were there when the part was originally designed," says Boss. "But they haven't changed anything because it is all they know. Our job is to continually educate manufacturers about the capabilities of engineered plastics and the ability to design components with engineered plastics that add value and help reduce costs."
DSM Engineering Plastics has found success with a number of its products, concentrating its efforts on the automobile's powertrain, electronics, air/fuel delivery, under the hood components and exterior trim.
The company has demonstrated some of the improved tolerances of engineered plastics with its Stanyl nylon 4/6, a high performance polymer, which has been used by several sensor manufacturers and OEMs as a replacement for previously machined metal, multi-part sensor components.
Stanyl sensors are used in areas where high temperature resistance is required. Stanyl is able to withstand constant temperatures of 300 to 320 degrees F for up to 5,000 hours and peak temperatures of 340 to 355 degrees F, even in combination with aggressive ATE foils.
The Stanyl sensors also meet specific requirements for sensors such as temperature cycle tests, vibration tests at various temperatures and severe long-term tests for tightness against ingress of air, oil, dust and water at elevated temperatures and pressures.
"We've done a lot of work with threaded sensors that are threaded into the transmission for speed, into the oil pan for oil level and oil temperature," says Boss. "The main requirements in those applications are temperature resistance and strength."
In additions to Stanyl, DSM Engineering Plastics' Akulon Ultraflow has been helping plastics gain market share under the hood.
"With our Akulon Ultraflow product, we are able to achieve easy flowing material," says Bob Newill, applications development engineer at DSM. "Because we can achieve easy flowing material, we can add higher levels of glass loading to it. We can go as high as 60 percent glass loading and it will fill into a tool much like a 30 percent glass loading."
One of the areas of success for Ultraflow has been in engines covers. Toyota used Ultraflow for the cover on its Sienna minivan. According to DSM, the flow of Akulon Ultraflow enables the use of more cavities in a tool and fewer injection points.
Wabash Technologies, a leading manufacturer of a broad range of vital electronic/electromechanical components for OEMs, used Akulon Ultraflow in its crankshaft sensor. The top part of the sensor is an over-mold of the actual sensor element The second part then molds the first to seal the sensor. Ultraflow provided improved flow capabilities and improved over-molding of the housing connector, the company says.
While DSM Engineering Products markets itself to other industries, Boss is quick to point out that the auto industry is a key market for engineered plastics, with a lot of room for increased market share in what has typically been metal's domain.
"As time progresses," Boss says, "you are going to see the adaptation of plastics into more structural components. Especially with the complex shapes that are going to be necessary to meet cockpit requirements and that will keep the space and volume while still lowering weight.
"But in the meantime," Boss adds, "there is still a high amount of parts available in the engine and transmission areas that can be pursued for metal replacement."