One of the big stories at this week’s National Plastics Exposition in Chicago is the evolution of America’s plastics industry. These are my first thoughts based on a press conference this morning at the Sabic Innovative Plastics booth. Sabic IP was formed in 2007 when Sabic acquired GE Plastics, one of the original plastics companies in the world with the development of phenolic housings for radios. Dan Fox, who worked with a young chemical engineer named Jack Welch, invented polycarbonate at GE. Charles Crew, CEO of Sabic IP, announced today that the company is launching a program called “One Sabic”. The company will sell a range of Sabic products, which could range from polyethylene to metals. “We’re going to start with glass-filled polypropylene for the automotive market,” Crew said in a response to a question from Design News. That move makes a lot of sense because of the high growth rates for polyolefins in auto applications from bumpers to interior components. Filled PP is a highly engineered material that fits the Sabic IP portfolio well. But it’s also a sea change from the standard operating procedure of the old GE Plastics, which at one time publicly denigrated lower level materials.Sabic, of course, is a major producer of polyethylene and polypropylene in Saudia Arabia, where it has a highly advantaged feedstock cost structure. It certainly makes sense for Sabic to use the former GE Plastics unit to market its whole portfolio. The decision, I’m sure though, was not an easy one. Mohamed H. Al-Mady, Sabic CEO, also said at the press conference: “Our strategy for selling polyme s in America is still evolving.”
BMW has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in the Rolls-Royce Phantom and intends to expand the use of 3D printing in its cars even more in the future. Meanwhile, Daimler has started using additive manufacturing for producing spare parts in Mercedes-Benz Trucks.
SABIC's lightweighting polycarbonate glazing materials have appeared for the first time in a production car: the rear quarter window of Toyota's special edition 86 GRMN sports car, where they're saving 50% of its weight compared to conventional glass.
Design engineers play a big role in selecting both suppliers and materials for their designs. Our most recent Design News Materials Survey says they continue to be highly involved, in some ways even more than the last time we asked to peek inside their cubicles.
Daihatsu is one of the first carmakers to customize car exteriors using 3D printing's mass customization capabilities. Effect Skins -- small exterior bumper and fender panels in different colors and textures -- can be ordered for its Copen convertible.
Several new products in this group of new adhesives, coatings, and sealants are formulated to protect sensitive electronic components, or to seal components of commercial and military aircraft. Others are designed to operate in tough, messy, dirty oil & gas operations, or for rotary applications and motors.
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