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Engineering Materials
Slideshow: Plastics Drive Auto Lightweighting
5/1/2012

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The smart forvision electric concept car co-developed by BASF and smart has several features that help it lose weight. One of the main ones, which BASF showed at NPE, is the polymer wheel rim made of its Ultramid Structure, with long reinforcing glass fibers, which saves up to 30 percent of the weight of a metal wheel rim. BASF representatives said this is the first polymer wheel rim that can be mass-produced.   (Source: BASF)
The smart forvision electric concept car co-developed by BASF and smart has several features that help it lose weight. One of the main ones, which BASF showed at NPE, is the polymer wheel rim made of its Ultramid Structure, with long reinforcing glass fibers, which saves up to 30 percent of the weight of a metal wheel rim. BASF representatives said this is the first polymer wheel rim that can be mass-produced.
(Source: BASF)

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Beth Stackpole
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Pretty wide of solutions
Beth Stackpole   5/1/2012 6:57:50 AM
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Interesting slide show, Ann. It's pretty amazing what they can accomplish today via use of bioplastics and innovations in injection molding processes. It seems like a lot of the lightweighting work takes place in the dash system. It strikes me that there should be a lot of other opportunities, particularly in the frame, to take weight out of the vehicle makeup.

NadineJ
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
NadineJ   5/1/2012 12:06:57 PM
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Thanks for sharing this. Lots of great possibilities here.

I think the dash is the easiest application but the last slide stel in the door panels was replaced.  I wonder how lightweight plastics have been/will be used in motorcycle helmets?  And, how long do they last?  The moving parts are constantly used and safety is the main concern in such a small space.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
Ann R. Thryft   5/1/2012 1:20:33 PM
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Thanks, Beth. There are many opportunities to take weight out of the frame and structure via composites, but there are assembly and process issues involved with transferring those technologies to highly automated, high volume automobile manufacturing. Meanwhile, lightweight metals production for cars is also being studied and occasionally applied, though usually, like composites, to high end race cars and more customized apps.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
Ann R. Thryft   5/1/2012 1:28:22 PM
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Nadine, plastics have been used in motorcycle/bicycle helmets, and lots of other sports gear, for several years, including their manufacture by 3D printing methods:

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=237571&image_number=10

Regarding durability, I'm not looking at the spec sheets, but my understanding is that most engineering-grade plastics meet specs as submitted by the end-manufacturer customers.


NadineJ
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
NadineJ   5/1/2012 2:05:55 PM
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Ann:  I ride a motorcycle.  My curiousity is around appllying the newer lightweight plastics to helmets.  Helmets have gotten much lighter over the years but there is a perception that heavy equals safe.  Lightweight componets have been introduced over the years but tend to break off and need replacement with intense use.

Dave Palmer
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PC/ABS
Dave Palmer   5/1/2012 5:29:48 PM
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I'd be concerned about using polycarbonate or PC/ABS for the hood of a tractor.  These materials are known for poor environmental stress cracking resistance, especially when exposed to fuel or oil.  Friends have told me about having this problem with other injection molded tractor hoods.

By the way, it seems like the images for slide 2 and slide 10 have been switched.  Slide 2 shows a door module, but the text is about a tractor hood.  Slide 10 shows a tractor, but the text is about a door module.

Charles Murray
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
Charles Murray   5/1/2012 7:08:37 PM
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Great slideshow, Ann. As long as I've been writing about the Chevy Volt, I never knew about the Ultramid battery cell frames.

naperlou
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
naperlou   5/2/2012 9:30:40 AM
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This is great.  Plastics (a variety of them) have been used in firearms frames for a while.  That is a demanding application, and they last.  The next step is to bring back aerodynamics.  The trend toward SUVs and cross-overs (or station wagons, as they should be called) has hurt fuel economy at least as much as increased weight.  I understand that most of the weight increase is the result of safety measures.  Using plastics will help mitigate some of that. 

ChasChas
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inflated parts
ChasChas   5/2/2012 10:19:05 AM
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The lightest parts are inflated parts with the internal pressure adding to get rigidity. Too bad space is such a premium on cars. Maybe the wheels and some structual body parts could benefit from this technology. (might add a softer collision factor in an accident)

Great pictures.

BillFZ1
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Re: Pretty wide of solutions
BillFZ1   5/2/2012 12:12:11 PM
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Nadine,

I worked in the motorcycle business for many years. Helmets have always been the trickiest thing to make. Plastic helmets have been manufactured, but the best, lightest helmets have always been fiberglass. The reason is that the plastic shells were actually too durable! Thin fiberglass can be talored to crush and abrade at specific rates. The shell actually is designed to crumple like the front and rear zones of modern cars. The newest plastics will probably be able to take over soon, but so far the best helmets are fiberglass construction.

Bill

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