June 1, 2012: AndyPostlethwaite, Senior VP, Engineering Plastics Asia Pacific, BASF

BASF’s senior VP, Engineering Plastics Asia Pacific, speaks about the new opportunities for engineering plastics and how Indian automakers can reduce weight and save costs.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 31 May 2012 Views icon1898 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
June 1, 2012: AndyPostlethwaite, Senior VP, Engineering Plastics Asia Pacific, BASF

What is BASF’s core expertise in the field of high-performance engineering plastics?
BASF focuses on four key factors for success: innovations, partnerships, reliability and diversity across the entire product range. Our product and process innovations provide customers with specific system cost advantages and therefore strengthen their position in their business sector. Thus, BASF’s offering reaches far beyond the supply of chemicals. It includes – in the case of engineering plastics – technical and engineering know-how, including computer simulation. Through our extensive network of technical centres globally we help our customers in realising innovative concepts to commercialisation. This know-how helps our customers to reduce the total development time and costs. Functional automobile parts, such as air intake manifolds, cylinder head covers, engine mounts, oil sumps and other mechanical components, structural components for the car chassis and body panels can be made from engineering plastics. Weight saving, integration of functions and cost savings are the main drivers. New integrative simulation methodologies developed by BASF help to optimise the design of engineering plastics parts so that optimum performance can be reached with a minimum of weight and material usage. As the intelligent use of plastics plays a key role in developing modern, lightweight, fuel-efficient cars, there are new opportunities for engineering plastics. Today, customers of engineering plastics seldom ask for new materials anymore, but rather for solutions to their problems. Faced with such requirements, plastics not only have to provide ever more specific performance profiles – the plastic supplier must also accompany them with a comprehensive and competent service package that is part of the solution. Thus, the fields of application are narrowing, while becoming more challenging, and increasing in number. Thanks to the combination of high-performance engineering plastics with optimised simulation methods such as Ultrasim, BASF’s proprietary integrative CAE (computer-aided engineering) simulation, we have succeeded in developing several complex high load and safety components like oil pans, stabilisers, engine mounts and structures that protect pedestrians. Many of these have been developed by the company together with our customers.

To which automakers in India do you supply and in which components are they used?
We supply to all OEMs. Due to confidentiality agreements, we cannot provide specifics unless the OEM agrees to divulge such information.

Where does India rank in the overall development and use of plastic components as compared to developed markets?
Engineering plastics in India has witnessed the fastest growth although the market size is not as large as some other Asian countries. This could change as more OEMs, particularly in the automotive industry, establish plants in India. There is a large potential for Indian automakers to reduce weight and save costs by using more high performance plastics, like engineering plastics. In Europe cars use an average of 20kg of polyamide per car with Korea close behind with 15kg. Some cars are using more polyamide compared to their previous versions. For example, in the new Opel Meriva the consumption of polyamide compared to the previous model is much higher (21.2kg to 15.5kg) or Citroën DS3 (12.3kg instead of 11.1kg). The new BMW 5-series has 33kg of polyamide – an all-time high. Also the new Astra and the Audi A1 have a consumption of 20kg.In comparison, in India cars use an average of 5-6kg. The amount of such specialised plastics found, in particular in the engine compartment, is a measure of how advanced a particular plastics market is.So far in India it is more about the local availability of parts and more common metals are used. BASF with local production and CAE support capabilities can enable local suppliers to produce more and more engineering plastic parts.As reducing the weight of cars continues to be an important development target for automakers, we expect the importance of engineering plastics to further increase in the future.

How do you rate the market opportunity for engineering plastics in India?
Manufacturers are looking to reduce cost in terms of energy efficiency for the cars’ operation. This will likely lead to an overall trend towards using more plastics instead of metal for cars. We expect that this will create an overall market potential for more engineering plastics.

What are the current dominant trends in the automotive plastics market in India?
The Indian automotive industry faces three key challenges:? Customers are demanding fuel efficient cars as oil prices are high and expected to rise further.??The price customers are willing to pay for a car is another challenge. Low price does not mean low quality. Consumers desire styling, safety and performance. These expectations are also putting pressure on the production cost of vehicles. ??India’s motor vehicle sales have been rising. More cars put a higher burden on the environment, making it necessary to tighten emission regulations and cut CO2 emissions. High oil prices and increasing environmental awareness are more and more focusing attention on the energy efficiency of automobiles. Lightweight construction, and thus the use of engineering plastics as a substitute for metal, plays a key role in this regard. The challenge in lightweight construction is to balance performance and system cost. These are challenges that BASF engineering plastics can help customers overcome.

To what extent can car parts made from plastics replace metal parts to help reduce overall vehicle weight?
The global trend is to increase the use of plastics in cars. Plastics help to reduce weight, increase safety and comfort, reduce noise levels, increase design flexibility, offer the possibility of modularisation that helps in lean manufacturing and enhance the aesthetics of the vehicle.Studies indicate that by 2020, cars will have a plastic content of 25 percent compared to 13-15 percent today.Plastics are also finding use in new electric vehicles. The lighter an electric vehicle is, the less drive energy it requires, and the greater its driving range will be. Making vehicles lighter will therefore be one of the key challenges for electric mobility in the future, and the chemical industry provides key solutions to make this possible. Lightweight design means replacing heavy, metal components with composite plastic materials that offer the same functionality and stability. In the smart forvision, the first all-plastic wheel rims to be fitted on a vehicle and further lightweight components for the body and seats contribute to weight reduction.

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