Asahi Kasei Plastics North America
Since the initial use of Bakelite in vehicles back in the 1930s, the integration of plastics in automotive design has grown significantly. Starting in the 2000s, the role of thermoplastics in OEM's push for light weighting their vehicles took the lead. Today, automotive plastics comprise approximately 50% of the volume of a light vehicle, but less than 10% of its total weight.
The use of automotive plastics is not limited to one area of the vehicle. Body panels, interior parts- functional and decorative and engine compartment all benefit from these materials. Today's push for engine downsizing, using turbochargers, high pressure injection and other combustion engine designs, lead to higher heat, pressure, thermal and mechanical stresses. Integrating plastics into these parts help OEMs achieve their goals for durability, NVH and customer satisfaction.
Electrification of vehicles to move away from ICEs also benefit from plastics. Integrating batteries using plastics as structural parts allows for reduced mass and optimized power-to-weight ratios. Eliminating PCBs through designing circuits into plastics is another area OEMs and suppliers are making progress.
Lightweight materials will significantly add to the vehicle of the future. From the manufacturer's point of view lightweight materials are a key factor to achieve the CO2 fleet emission goals. At the same time, they contribute to a better range or fuel efficiency — without compromising safety. To reduce weight, not only can metals can be replaced, but existing plastic applications can be downsized and redesigned using newly developed or improved thermoplastics.
Moving to the future of Autonomous Vehicles, new materials and coverings will be needed to preserve a healthy passenger compartment. Materials that are easily cleanable, anti-microbial and highly durable, due to the increase in usage compared to a privately-owned vehicle. The future will also see insulating polymers to ensure EMI compliance, body and trim pieces with self-healing paint and increased UV and VOC specifications.
Plastics and foams are more than just lightweight materials. They will prove to be a significant addition to the user experience in future automotive interiors.
What does the user expect from the future automotive interior? With shared, autonomous cars being the main symbol for future mobility, the interior as we know it today will undergo a profound change. The steering wheel will disappear, the passengers will not have to focus on the traffic anymore. Seats, which now allow only position adjustments will be able to turn around completely. Roof and side windows will be bigger, to make the cabin brighter and to allow the passengers to enjoy the landscape surrounding them. With more time at hand, passengers will ask for more displays, audio systems, more entertainment features in general — but also for peace and quietness. To put it short: The automotive interior of the future is going to become a space of comfort and relaxation — a new living space. But these new expectations are challenging the car manufacturers, since every additional feature will add to the overall weight of the car. From the user's point of view lightweight itself is no emotional experience. Especially when used in the interior of the car, human senses come into play. The materials should not smell, appeal to the eye and — due to the rising popularity of car sharing — also withstand intense use by many different users. With the automotive interior becoming a living space, the materials should also be able to reduce noise coming from outside the car. At the same time noise from inside the car should stay inside. Consequently, how can plastics and foams help to meet these expectations? Asahi Kasei offers a diversified range of materials which can bring the future automotive interior to life.
TENAC™ Polyacetal (POM) — Can you smell the difference?The in-cabin air quality is becoming increasingly important. With the increased use of plastics inside the car, the reduction of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is becoming a key factor for an improved in-car air quality. VOCs are carbon-based gases that can evaporate from plastic materials into the air at room temperature, especially in newly produced cars. In closed environments, these gases can lead to discomfort and health issues, such as headaches or nausea. Asahi Kasei, the world's only manufacturer of homo- and copolymer POM under the brand name TENAC™ developed a low-VOC material many years before the automotive industry started to address this issue. TENAC™ has the world's lowest VOC emission class — exceeding the high standards of all OEMs worldwide. In addition, properties like low friction, scratch resistance and a high mechanical strength make TENAC™ a suitable material for applications in the automotive. It is already used in applications like sliders for seat adjustments, lumbar support for seating comfort, or seat belt push buttons. The company has recently developed a metal-looking low-VOC TENAC™, using aluminum flakes as a filler. Looking and feeling like metal, it features a high scratch resistance while at the same time improving the in-car air quality compared to other materials.
Thermylene® Polypropylene (PP) — The economic alternative
Considering the concept of autonomous vehicles, panoramic roofs allow more light inside and offer excellent views of the surrounding to the passengers. Asahi Kasei's glass-reinforced polypropylene Thermylene® features a high flowability and offers cost advantages compared to polyamide. Lighter and larger sunroof panels made of this material will add to the overall living-space experience of the future automotive.
LEONA™ Polyamide (PA) — Looks good, lasts long
With more sunlight inside the car, the necessity for UV-resistant materials will grow. Asahi Kasei's semi-aromatic glass-filled polyamide LEONA™ withstands the toughest automotive exterior UV tests — without any additional coating. It is used for exterior mirror brackets — and is now finding its way inside the car. It is already used for the fine thin-walled and unpainted blades of a dashboard venting system, directly positioned under the front windshield and with maximum sunlight exposure.
XYRON™ Modified PPE: Lightweight material with excellent electrical properties and UL94 V-0 flame retardance
XYRON™ — the brand name of Asahi Kasei's mPPE — is an engineering plastic with unique properties, created by blending with other resins such as polystyrene (PS), polyamide (PA), polypropylene (PP), polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) or other polymeric materials.
Applications for XYRON™ are to be found to a large extent in the automotive sector. Thanks to its low density — the lowest among engineering plastics — mPPE is suitable for a wide range of lightweight components, that are used, for example, for relay blocks, hood panels and brackets. However, concerning the current period of upheaval in the automotive sector, XYRON™ is especially used in the context of structural battery parts in the field of e-mobility. In this regard, the material contributes to a compact and weight saving battery design, at the same time leading to more efficiency as well as safety