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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 -
Industrial workplaces are governed by OSHA rules, but this isn’t to say that rules are always followed. While injuries happen on production floors for a variety of reasons, of the top 10 OSHA rules that are most often ignored in industrial settings, two directly involve machine design: lockout/tagout procedures (LO/TO) and machine guarding.
Load dump occurs when a discharged battery is disconnected while the alternator is generating current and other loads remain on the alternator circuit. If left alone, the electrical spikes and transients will be transmitted along the power line, leading to malfunctions in individual electronics/sensors or permanent damage to the vehicle’s electronic system. Bottom line: An uncontrolled load dump threatens the overall safety and reliability of the vehicle.
While many larger companies are still reluctant to rely on wireless networks to transmit important information in industrial settings, there is an increasing acceptance rate of the newer, more robust wireless options that are now available.
To those who have not stepped into additive manufacturing, get involved as soon as possible. This is for the benefit of your company. When the new innovations come out, you want to be ready to take advantage of them immediately, and that takes knowledge.
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