Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2012 (2)

Plastics and molding technologies



 Below is a summary of technologies representing weight reduction through the use of plastics and various molding technologies exhibited at the 2nd Automotive Weight Reduction Expo held January 18-20, 2012 in Tokyo.

 Toyoda Gosei exhibited an EV concept car characterized by abundant use of plastics. The company plans to determine the feasibility of increased use of plastics in cars. Victrex Japan exhibited super-engineering plastics, Victrex, a material used in engines, transmissions, brakes, etc.

 Plastic parts on display intended for use in defined areas included the front-end module, underbody shields, fuel filler pipes and foamed HVAC (air conditioning) ducts.

 Resin molding technologies on display included die slide injection for forming hollow parts, and special gas injection (floating core molding: RFM) for forming bent pipes. Also introduced at the Expo were metal surface treating technologies intended to join plastics to metals.

 Toray and Oike exhibited films that produce metallic impression.

 NTT Data Engineering Systems introduced additive fabrication processes for making complex shapes. Koiwai exhibited front suspensions and other parts made by such systems.

>>>>> Related Reports:
Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2012 (1): lightweight materials, EV & HEV Drive System Technology Expo 2012
Automotive Weight Reduction Expo 2011 (1): lightweight materials, (2): plastics and plastic molding technologies

Toyoda Gosei: An electric vehicle with a plastic body now being tested

 Toyoda Gosei has developed an EV concept car "TG EV" based on the Toyota Vitz and featuring plastic-made fenders and hoods. The car is now being tested in the grounds of Chubu International Airport. The company plans to send the test results to carmakers to promote the use of plastics in their car-making.

Toyoda Gosei: Plastic-rich EV prototype on display

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Toyoda Gosei TG Electric Vehicle
(Lightweight and energy-saving solution)
 Toyoda Gosei exhibited an electric vehicle "TG EV" converted from the Toyota Vitz. It was developed with the sole purpose of exploring parts that will contribute to better driving performance and supplying such parts to carmakers. The car is being subjected to demonstration tests at the Chubu International Airport (as a lead car running in front of a runway tour bus).
 Plastic material is used generously in both interior and exterior parts resulting in a 40% weight reduction from plastic fenders and hood, 20% in thin-walled and lightweight bumpers, 30% overall in the vehicle weight, compared to the B-segment electric vehicles of the conventional body (which, in turn, nearly halves the required driving power).
Source: Exhibits and printed materials at the 2nd Automotive Weight Reduction Expo (throughout this report)
(Notes) 1. According to a news report in February 2012, Toyoda Gosei predicts that commercial application of plastics to make automotive bodies will start in three years at the earliest. Since plastics will cost 30 to 40% more than steel at the present, the company will endeavor to reduce costs by increasing the efficiency of production processes.
2. The prototyping of the EV is expected to help gain in-depth understanding about electric vehicles and determine what the company should develop as a parts manufacturer. The company chose to prepare an electric vehicle for driving tests as an EV had fewer heat sources that would interfere with the use of plastics.



Super engineering plastics "Victrex"

 Victrex, a British manufacturer specializing in Super Engineering Plastic "Victrex" and its Japanese corporation, Victrex Japan, supply Victrex PEEK and other high-function plastics that replace metals. The plastic material is used to make engines, transmissions, brakes and other automotive parts.

Super Engineering Plastic "Victrex"

Victrex Japan Super Engineering
Plastic "Victrex"
 Victrex is a British manufacturer of super engineering plastic "Victrex." The main product, Victrex PEEK, offers a number of advantages over metals. It has a higher specific strength, eliminates the need for rust prevention treatment, allows the integration of several parts, and also eliminates the need for surface treatment of the mating material (metal) when used as a sliding (moving) part. It does not require machining and is injection moldable to make precision parts, thereby contributing to cost reductions as well.
 The company has also developed "ST STG45" grade of Victrex ST that ensures higher mechanical properties under high temperatures, "ST ST45GL30" grade that increases strength with 30% glass fibers, and carbon fiber reinforced compound HMF grade (20 to 40% carbon fibers).
 Victrex Japan displayed many Victrex-based parts used in engines, transmissions and brakes. For instance, Victrex is used as a metal replacement to make transmission parts such as seal rings, thrust washers, bearings and bearing cages.



Metal-replacement parts and associated technologies

Front-end modules and multi-color molded panoramic roof

 Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group exhibited the front-end module for Mazda Atenza made nearly entirely of plastics manufactured by the group companies.

 The group supplies materials for making the plastic panoramic roof for the Toyota Prius α. The group exhibited a newly-developed multi-color molded panoramic roof.

Front-end module for Mazda Atenza
Front-end module for Mazda Atenza
(made nearly entirely of materials supplied by the group companies)


Front-end module and multi-color molded panoramic roof

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
(a Mitsubishi Chemical
Holdings Group company)
Front End Module  The shroud panel (see Note) is made by injection molding of long glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene (product name "Funcster" containing 40% of long glass fibers). The shroud panel is integrated to make a front-end module, which is supplied to the Mazda Atenza.
 "Funcster" is a long glass fiber-reinforced thermoplastic developed by Japan Polypropylene Corporation. The conventional short fiber reinforced plastics contain glass fibers that are chopped to the length of about 0.5mm. In contrast, Funcster contains intertangled unchopped fibers that are 10mm or so long. This gives superior strength and impact resistance at the same time. The product is ideally fluidic for injection molding and contributes to reducing the part count compared to products made of conventional materials.

(Note) The shroud is the component that covers the radiator and the radiator fan, and the shroud panel that supports the shroud is an integral part of the body frame. The shroud panel is also called the radiator core support.

polycarbonate plastic
 The joint venture company established by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Corp. and Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. has developed plastic material used to make the plastic panoramic roof used in the Toyota Prius α (the roof itself is manufactured by Toyota Industries). The plastic material reduces the weight by 8kg (40%) compared to the conventional glass roof.
 The present panoramic roof is transparent. The company has developed a polycarbonate plastic that is multi-color moldable and has equal solar radiation blocking capacity as the automotive glass products. The present panoramic roof is more costly than the glass counterpart. The company will reduce costs by introducing integrated fasteners (brackets, stays) and modularization with peripheral components such as a shade.


Lightweight underbody shields

 Starlite and Quadrant Plastic Composites Japan (a Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Group company) exhibited lightweight underbody shields. Underbody shields are designed to streamline the airflow under the running vehicle body and improve the car's aerodynamics, thereby contributing to reducing the wind noise.

Lightweight underbody shields

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Starlite Underbody shield  Roechling, a German company with which Starlite is partnered, has developed a lightweight and highly sound-absorbent underbody shield made from polypropylene-based glass mat-reinforced thermoplastics (GMT, trade name: Seeberlite).
 The side undershield (covering for right and left sides under the floor) for the BMW 5 Series on display, made of Seeberlite, weighs 1,230g, 550g lighter than the conventional PP product that weighs 1,780g. The side undershield for the 3 Series weighs 790g which is 350g lighter than the PP product. The engine undershield for the 7 Series weighs 870g.
Quadrant Plastic
Composites Japan
underbody shield
 This company has developed the underbody shields made of SymaLITE that replace the conventional shields made of polypropylene (PP), glass fiber-reinforced PP (GFPP) or stainless steel (St) and reduce the weight by 30 to 40%. The lightweight underbody shields are supplied to Toyota, BMW, Audi, Porsche and other automakers.
 SymaLITE is a super-lightweight composite sheet material consisting of thermoplastic polypropylene and long glass fibers. The plastic fibers are mixed evenly with the long glass fibers to produce superior rigidity. It contains continuous air voids that contribute to sound absorption and eliminates the need for sound absorbers used in conventional shields.


Resin-made fuel filler pipes

 Toyoda Gosei and Kyoraku exhibited fuel filler pipes made of plastics.

 Kyoraku has developed a low-cost molding machine in which the parison is guided by a parison-handling robot.

Plastic fuel filler pipe exhibited by Toyoda Gosei
Plastic fuel filler pipe exhibited by Toyoda Gosei
(current production pipe seen in the foreground)


Plastic fuel filler pipe

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Toyoda Gosei Plastic Fuel
Filler Pipe
 The conventional fuel filler pipe, extending from the fuel filler to the fuel tank, has an "iron + rubber hose" structure. The new pipe has an integrated plastic structure that weighs 1kg or less representing a 50% weight reduction. It is used in Japan and Europe.
 The pipe has a multi-layered structure that increases the barrier property (prevention of permeation) and durability. It also has a bellows structure that increases the strength and impact resistance. The plastic pipe exhibits the same impact strength as the iron-made pipe and flexibility as the rubber hose.
Kyoraku Plastic Fuel
Filler Pipe
 Plastic fuel tanks have been increasingly adopted today, and the manufacture of fuel filler pipes from plastics is a new industrial trend. Kyoraku has developed a low-cost fuel filler pipe molding machine of an original design (costs one third the cost of existing machines).
 The parison-handling robot guides the tube-shaped molten plastic (called "parison") that descends from the top of the molding machine and places it between a pair of molds. Air pressure is introduced to push the plastic material out against the inner wall of the mold and form the end product (this process is called three-dimensional multi-layered blow molding).
 The new three-dimensional molding process reduces the burr (loss) ratio significantly from 425% (conventional blow process) to 37.5%.

(Note) The fuel filler pipe has five layers (inner polymer, adhesive, barrier, adhesive and outer polymer layers) to increase the barrier property (to prevent fuel from vaporization and leaking to air through the pipe) and durability.


Foamed HVAC duct, EA material and deck-boards by Kyoraku

 Kyoraku exhibited a foamed HVAC (air conditioning) duct. According to Kyoraku, the heat insulation and weight reduction effects are drawing attention from automakers.

 The company also exhibited a lightweight deck-board (covering for the luggage area).

Foamed HVAC duct exhibited by Kyoraku
Foamed HVAC duct exhibited by Kyoraku


Foamed HVAC ducts and energy absorbing (EA) materials

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Kyoraku HVAC Ducts  Kyoraku has developed super-lightweight HVAC ducts of a high heat insulation property (30 to 50% weight reduction compared to conventional blow molded ducts) using a foam blow molding process. The process eliminates the need for a heat insulating urethane lining and thus reduces costs. The ducts are used in Toyota Alphard (ceiling ducts), the Daihatsu Move (instrument panel ducts), and Toyota Dyna / Hino Dutro (instrument panel ducts). The new Daihatsu model will use Kyoraku's instrument panel ducts also.
 According to Kyoraku, carmakers are looking to the foam blow molding process because of superior heat insulation as well as weight reducing effects. When a foam blow is performed at an expansion ratio of 4.0 or higher, the heat insulation property of the air conditioner passage increases which helps to reach the set temperature faster. The expansion ratio and duct thickness can be altered to meet the customer's specific requirement.
EA (Energy
Absorbing) parts
 Kyoraku exhibited blow molded energy absorbing (EA) material for protecting pedestrians. The product weighing 600g and made from general-purpose polypropylene serves the same purpose as a steel-made product that weighs 1,250g. The EA material is used to make bumper absorbers on Suzuki Escudo and Kizashi. The energy absorbing performance can be altered to meet the customer's requirement.
Lightweight deck-board (covering for luggage areas)
Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Kyoraku FLP Lite S  FLP (Fabric Laminated Plastic) is a process in which fabric is pre-set in the mold and integrated with the plastic part as it is being molded.
 FLP Lite S provides other processes in addition to FLP mentioned above. It is characterized by a thin-wall blow-molding process in which a hollow structure is formed which reduces the weight. The mold is prepared so that ribs (wall-like reinforcements) are formed in the hollow, double wall structure. This process is used to make Kyoraku's lightest cargo floor lid (covering for luggage areas).
FLP Lite  FLP Lite provides other processes in addition to FLP mentioned above. Resins are set in both sides of the molds and the core is set between them so that the surface, resin material and core are formed by a single molding action. The core contributes to increased rigidity and reduced weight that is not possible with the conventional blow processes.



Molding technology and related technology

Die slide injection and other molding technologies

 Daiichijushi Industry and RP TOPLA introduced the die slide injection (DSI) processes.

 RP TOPRA proposed the RFM process for forming bending plastic pipes that are already used by European carmakers.

RP TOPLA's coolant pipes formed by RFM process (foreground)
RP TOPLA's coolant pipes formed by RFM process (foreground)


Plastic molding processes

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
Die Slide Injection
 An injection molding process for making hollow parts. Hollow half parts (primary parts) are molded separately, then are joined together as the molds slide. Secondary resin is injected to the joints and the two parts are bonded together as a single hollow product. This integrated process reduces the part count as well as the weight along with a 30 to 60% cost reduction.
 This company has shipped over 17 million DSI-molded parts used in cellular phones and home appliances. Automotive application of the process is a new business that is coming up shortly.
RP TOPLA Die Slide Injection
 Same process as DSI introduced above. In another process, welding in mold (WIM), the primary parts are removed from the mold and reset in a welding mold where the parts are bonded together. Both processes are used to make large-sized products having complex internal design and to insert other parts into a product.
RP TOPLA Special gas injection
 A special gas injection molding for forming bent pipes. Gas is introduced to move the floating core (metal or plastic) to extrude the resin material inside the product and form hollow pipes. "RFM" stands for RP TOPLA Floating Core Molding. The pipe length can be up to 2.5m and the inner diameter 3 to 34mm.
 The company has supplied cooling pipes for BMW and VW in Europe, and coolant pipes for Yamaha's large motorcycles in Japan. The company has achieved approximately 60% weight reduction along with a 10% cost reduction compared to conventional iron pipes.
Higher Hollow Molding
 The company introduced the "Higher Hollow Molding" (H2M) process in which gas is injected into the part while the mold is expanded and ribs (wall-like reinforcement that connects the top and bottom sections of the part) are formed to make thinner-walled products.


Metal and plastic integral molding processes

 MEC and Techno Associe proposed processes for integral bonding of metals and plastics based on special metal surface treatment. Applications of these processes include placing plastics over specific portions on the metal surface, and setting plastic components with metal as in antennas.


Integral molding of metals and plastics

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
MEC Resin and metal
bonding process
 MEC has developed a resin and metal bonding process (AMALPHA). The metal surface is chemically treated to prepare it for integrally molding metals and resins without the use of adhesives. This process is ideal in applications where a metal surface must be partially coated with plastics.
 Metal is soaked in an etching fluid for chemical treatment. The metal is then set in the mold and resin is injected to bond the two together. Metals can be copper, aluminum, stainless steel, steel, etc. Resins can be phenol and other thermosetting resins and PPS, PA and other thermoplastic resins. (Injection molding process, in which resin is injected around the metal part inserted into the mold for integral molding of metal and resin, is called insert molding.)
Metal and plastic
integral molding
 The metal surface is chemically treated to receive a chemical coat, then resin is injected by an insert molding. Metals can be aluminum alloy, copper, stainless steel, steel, etc., and resins can be Nylon 6, ABS, PBT (polybutylene terephthalate), etc. The bonded area can be sealed to provide a watertight finish.
 Application of this process includes chassis (boxes and cases for storing electric device), cases for electronic equipment, heat sinks (radiators), and water-proof packing replacements. Often used for resin molding to which antennas, metal terminals and other metal components are to be integrated.


Resin hard coating, metallic luster forming film

 Oike exhibited films that are coated over glass or plastic to save energy and increase abrasion resistance.

 Toray and Oike exhibited films that give metallic impressions. Films by the two companies equally have light reflection and transmission properties. With a light source placed inside, they would provide unique lighting effects.

Toray's metallic gloss film "PICASUS"
Toray's metallic luster forming film "PICASUS"
(center console on Daihatsu Tanto Exe Custom)


Window films and hard coat for plastic glazing

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
OIKE Window Film  Attached to automobile and building windows to save energy and keep glass from shattering. Other properties, such as extra transmission of visible light, blocking heat rays, hard coating (abrasion resistance) and prevention of static buildup, may be implemented as needed. "Metallic luster film" and "transparent heat ray reflection film" have been commercialized and used in many houses and buildings.
 In automotive application, the film is placed over window glass and roof to block unpleasant heat rays and ultraviolet rays thereby contributing to a more comfortable environment for passengers.
Hard Coat for
Plastic Glazing
 Oike is developing unique hard coating technology for plastic glazing that drastically increases abrasion resistance. When applied to polycarbonate (PC) glazing, it is expected to increase wear resistance by several fold over that of the conventional PC glazing.


Metallic Decoration Film

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
OIKE "Eco Mold"
Vapor-deposited Film
For Molding
 The company exhibited "Eco Mold" vapor-deposited film. Vapor-deposition, used to produce an impressive metallic sheen, is a process that takes place in a vacuum chamber. Ionized and highly energized gaseous electrons are caused to collide with the metal (film forming material) to bombard metal particles (a process known as sputtering) that are deposited onto the film surface to form a thin coat having metallic impression. This technology is expected to replace conventional metal plating.
 Likely applications include interior and exterior components of automobiles and accessories. The film reflects and transmits light. When a light source is placed behind the film, it will give a unique color tone and contribute to a greater freedom of design.
TORAY Metallic Luster Forming Film "PICASUS"  Toray has developed metallic luster forming film "PICASUS" consisting of layers of polymers of high refractive indexes and those of low refractive indexes. This causes interference reflection in the visible light range and produces metallic sheen from non-metallic materials.
 The film reflects and transmits light. When a light source is placed behind the film, it will give unique color tone unlike ordinary metallic impressions.
 "PICASUS" is used in the center consoles and overhead consoles (consoles are manufactured by Toyota Boshoku) on Daihatsu Tanto Exe Custom. It is also used in the EV Concept Car "TEEWAVE" AR1 that was also exhibited at the Automotive Weight Reduction Expo. (Decorations were conventionally made by a time-consuming process consisting of plating, coating and metal vapor deposition over plastic moldings.)



Powder additive fabrication for direct production from 3D model data

 NTT Data Engineering Systems supplies fabrication systems (EOSINT, FORMIGA) and related technical services for manufacturing products directly from plastic, metal, casting sand and other powder materials using 3D model data.

 Koiwai introduced sand molds and finished products using these systems. The company exhibited front suspensions having a 2mm thick hollow section that were hard to make with a conventional casting process.

Metal structural samples prepared by additive fabrication
Metal structural samples prepared by additive fabrication
(by EOSINT M process that directly fabricates from metal material)


Powder additive fabrication for direct production from 3D model data

Manufacturer Product/Technology Description
NTT Data
Engineering Systems
Additive Fabrication  The EOSINT and FORMIGA systems that the company supplies are based on laser-sintering, one of the additive fabrication methods. They are used to manufacture parts and fabrication tools from plastic, metal, casting sand and other powder materials directly from 3D model data.
 In actual production, the 3D data prepared typically by 3D CAD are sliced layer by layer (0.02 to 0.2mm thick) and laser energy is injected to the powder material according to the sliced data to form a layer by sintering, melting or solidifying. Layers are placed over other layers to form a three-dimensional product.
 Several systems are available to suit specific needs. EOSINT S is used to make sand molds from casting sand (layer thickness 0.2mm). EOSINT M is used to make products or molds from metal materials (0.02 to 0.08mm). EOSINT P is used for resin molding (0.06mm to 0.18mm). FORMIGA P (0.1mm) is preferred when precise reproduction of fine forms is mandatory.
KOIWAI Sand molds and
products made by
 Koiwai manufactures cast parts for volume and trial production. The company uses EOSINT S system (for making sand molds) supplied by NTT Data Engineering Systems to make trial and volume production parts for carmakers and parts suppliers.
 EOSINT S is used to make sand molds (main molds and cores) directly from 3D data without using a wooden mold or a metal mold. This allows integral forming of sand molds having a complex shape and contributes to reducing the number of sand molds required per mold (from up to 10 parts to only 1 in certain cases), improving the precision of assembly and increasing the yield.
 The company says many of the shortcomings of the conventional casting process are eliminated by the EOSINT S system. For instance, when making thin-walled castings, the molten material would flow to thick sections and not to thinner sections. The hollow section of the front suspension on display has a wall thickness of 2mm which presented a technical difficulty to a conventional casting process.

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