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Metal Replacement Gains Velocity in Automotive
1/17/2013

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Replacing painted metal with metallic-filled polymers for engine covers offers greater design freedom while reducing VOC emissions and production cost.
Replacing painted metal with metallic-filled polymers for engine covers offers greater design freedom while reducing VOC emissions and production cost.

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Cabe Atwell
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The numbers
Cabe Atwell   1/17/2013 3:24:36 PM
I wish some 3D printer could print this type of polymer, it would be exceedingly helpful in design. Perhaps there is?

I question the heat dissipation of the polymer. Do you have any comparative numbers on the material versus metals?

C

Charles Murray
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Re: The numbers
Charles Murray   1/17/2013 5:59:40 PM
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With 54.5-mpg CAFE mandates looming, most automakers are deseperate to find ways to cut weight. If suppliers can develop the mechanical strength needed for body panels and seat components, and provide the heat resistance for underhood components, automakers will snap up these materials.

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
How it's done
Dave Palmer   1/22/2013 8:48:38 PM
The low-hanging fruit of plastic-to-metal conversion is no longer there for the taking, but that doesn't mean there are no opportunities.  This article does a good job of explaining how to go about finding these opportunities: design engineers should sit down with suppliers or other experts, with a focus on part function.  You are probably not going to make the same exact part out of plastic that you made out of metal -- at least, not if you want the part to work! But, with a little creativity, you might be able to get the same function.  It takes design ingenuity, along with a knowledge of what's out there in terms of materials.  This is where suppliers and outside experts can help.

Cabe Atwell
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Re: How it's done
Cabe Atwell   1/23/2013 4:38:17 PM
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When demand is there, surplus is there. You can still buy car parts, new, from popular models from the 80s. They made so many of them, they are still cheap.

The same will apply to materials, I am sure.

C

Kendall Justiniano
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Iron
Re: The numbers
Kendall Justiniano   1/25/2013 12:42:23 PM
Hi Cabe,



Designing trade-offs are always more complex than getting exact matches of properties. The thermally conductive compounds referenced in the article have thermal conductivities up to about 20 W/mK. While that isn't quite equivalent to aluminum at 100W/mK, it's over 3 orders of magnitude improvement over base plastics which sit at around 0.1 W/mK.

That does make these formulations viable options for heat management. We've done several design cases in areas such as automotive lighting and have shown that those sorts of conductivities are more than enough to replace metal heat sinks which in many cases are *overspecified* for thermal conductivity.

As to 3D printing. We have 3D printing capability and development programs to be able to print some of our key functional formulations. Happy to discuss further if you like.

Regards,
Kendall Justiniano, PolyOne

Cabe Atwell
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Blogger
Re: The numbers
Cabe Atwell   1/25/2013 4:23:09 PM
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Not that conductive, but sounds like a great material that can both house and supply data for low voltage sensors. I wonder if this is being explored. Also, a great way to send power or a signal through a enclosed container. That is if both conductive and non-conductive plastics can be molded together. Sound like this will revolutionize the automotive sector sometime soon.

C

Scott Orlosky
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Re: The numbers
Scott Orlosky   1/26/2013 11:53:11 PM
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I found myself wondering if there were some polymer/metal hybrid materials out there for use in automotive applications? Is that a practical tradeoff for weight, strength, conductivity, etc.?  Any thoughts?

Greg M. Jung
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Re: The numbers
Greg M. Jung   1/27/2013 12:11:03 PM
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I agree Kendall.  The improved thermal conductivity of many polymers is now opening design doors that were previously closed for us.  In addition to metal heat sinks that may have been overspecified in the past, new LED technologies burn cooler and brighter, so the opportunity to replace a metal heatsink with a thermally conductive plastic heatsink may now be available.

Kendall Justiniano
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Iron
Re: The numbers
Kendall Justiniano   2/4/2013 2:30:09 PM
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Greg, LED lighting is one area we've looked at extensively and yes, I think that conductive polymers can play a big role in heat management of the new LED systems.

Kendall Justiniano
User Rank
Iron
Re: The numbers
Kendall Justiniano   2/4/2013 2:36:32 PM
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Scott, not sure what sort of construct you mean specifically by a 'hybrid.' Some of our systems are filled with various substances. Metals sometimes play a role. But the metal itself doens't play a role for strength. Obviously the trade-off when systems are more highly filled is for strength properties (flex mod, impact). I think maintaining this balance is more critical for automotive applications than say electronics. We are also looking at composite-based constructs for these types of properties.  Best, Kendall -

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