2013 Lightweighting Special:DSM consolidates lightweighting gains
Having delivered lightweight and proven components made out of engineered plastics, DSM Engineering supplies the Mercedes-Benz A-class with an engine cover made of polyamide derived from the castor plant. Amit Panday reports.
Named as EcoPaXX, the polyamide (form of polymer) is largely derived from the castor plant. Meeting the demanding requirements of the large-sized, turbo-powered petrol-engine, the DSM-developed lightweight cover, EcoPaXX provides adequate heat resistance (temperatures over 200degC) and high dimensional stability. According to the company data, the lightweight nature of the engine cover (weighs 1.32kg) contributes to the new-generation A-class which offers better fuel efficiency than the previous generation models. Moving forward, DSM has developed a full portfolio of polyamide 410 grades tuned to the needs of the automotive and other industries. Sanjay Jain, business director – India, DSM Engineering Plastics elucidates that “reducing the fuel consumption of a car is one of the key focus areas for DSM. With our innovative materials, we aim to develop lighter components contributing into reducing the fuel consumption and the carbon footprint. The key technologies which we are pursuing are metal to plastic replacement or rubber to plastic replacement and part integration and consolidation. In terms of processing, we are also looking at gas injection moulding to reduce weight, 3-D blow moulding and the standard injection moulding procedures. We are also working to expand our portfolio of materials to suit the ever increasing demands to deal with the high temperatures in under-the-bonnet applications. We have multiple examples of reducing the weight of the car, replacing metal or rubber with plastic. We have replaced metal in an oil pan or air intake manifold with our materials. With our portfolio of Akulon PA6, Stanyl PA46; we offer high performance materials, resulting in 40 percent weight reduction compared to plastic.”
Weight, cost savings
As part of the lightweighting trend, engineered plastics are not only proving to be lighter, more durable and effective but are also resulting into cost savings – based on integration with high mechanical performance. For example, DSM’s Akulon polyamide 6 is successfully used to develop lighter, less expensive, proven to withstand heat and easier to process oil sumps. Jain describes that the Akulon-based hybrid oil sumps and pans provide dimensional accuracy, stability and strength under the toughest conditions, comparable or superior to metal in most respects. These hybrid oil sumps are 20 percent lighter than their aluminium counterparts and 40 percent lighter than an aluminium bed plate and silent steel oil pan. The company has developed this form of oil sump in partnership with Ford Motor Company and Mann + Hummel globally. “There are approximately one billion cars on the road today – with an estimated 60 to 70 million more coming off global production lines each year. All eyes are therefore on the automotive industry to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and reduce harmful emissions - without compromising on the safety and comfort that drivers now demand. Metal replacement and light-weighting will henceforth play a major part,” he concludes.
INTERVIEW WITH SANJAY JAIN, BIZ DIRECTOR – INDIA, DSM ENGINEERING PLASTICS
In your opinion, which areas provide the maximum scope for cutting down vehicle weight?
Since plastics are strong and provide toughness along with flexibility, they can be used in many parts of the vehicle including high-temperature and under-the-hood applications, and in components where good dimensional stability is the key to production and use. The opportunities are in the following areas — powertrain applications, chassis, structural components and housings, metal ducts and rubber tube and CNG tanks. The simplest way to cut fuel consumption and emissions is to make the vehicle lighter. A single vehicle contains anywhere from 20 to 40kg of engineering plastics, primarily around the engine where heat performance is important. However, when you consider that there are close to 30,000 parts in a single vehicle, it’s easy to see the potential to make vehicles far lighter. In fact by replacing metals with next-generation engineering plastics, it’s possible to reduce weight of many vehicle components by up to 50 percent.
How does DSM Engineering work with its global teams and OEMs to introduce new lightweighting ideas?
Ultimately, partnership is about people. That’s why our brightest minds, from scientists to sales and marketing professionals, are keenly focused on customer relationships — and supported by state-of-the-art facilities, technologies and processes. We have a global organisation, but act local and we work all leading OEMs and Tier 1s globally.
How does DSM Engineering see lightweighting efforts as a part of its overall R&D operations?
At DSM Engineering Plastics India, we have a fully dedicated team of sales and marketing, supported by application development and CAE engineers who specifically carry the understanding of automotive Tier 1s and OEMs. There are teams which focus on areas like lightweighting, friction reduction and are supported by our global engineering, application and material developments labs located across the world like in Japan, China, Europe and the US.
Is there any alternative to high-performance engineering plastics as a cost-effective answer to metal to reduce weight?
It all depends upon the environment in which the part operates and the loading conditions. It is based on that you could use low-end engineering plastics like PP Reinforced compounds to very high-end engineering plastics like Stanyl PA46.
Who are your key auto clients in India which are focussing on lightweighting aggressively?
The key clients come from all auto OEMs and all tiers who are focused on powertrain applications, interior and exterior components, moulding components, system suppliers and all comprising the entire automotive value chain.
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