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Molded-in-Color Parts Replace Metallic Paint on SUV Center Console Housing

Molded-in-Color Parts Replace Metallic Paint on SUV Center Console Housing
PolyOne recently collaborated with a leading global automotive OEM and its injection molder to eliminate paint from a new vehicle’s interior.

PolyOne recently collaborated with a leading global automotive OEM and its injection molder to eliminate paint from a new vehicle’s interior. To support the transition to molded-in-color (MIC) parts, PolyOne provided metallic-effect Smartbatch FX masterbatch colorants for two PC/ABS side panels on the center console of a compact SUV now entering commercial production. The parts (two; one on each side of the center console) are C-shaped, 35-cm long, and at their widest point 11-cm wide.

Easily transition from paint to metallic-effect with Smartbatch FX masterbatch. Image courtesy of PolyOne.
Paint adds a great surface finish to automobile parts, but painting always adds cost, time, and additional logistics requirements according to PolyOne. By using Smartbatch FX metallic masterbatches, the molder was able to produce parts ready for assembly with no secondary processing required. Suitable for standard injection molding machinery, Smartbatch FX reduces the cost per part by 30 percent or more compared to painted parts. Lowered energy requirements versus painting and the reduction of VOCs also make this masterbatch a more environmentally sustainable solution.

“Many car parts are painted, not just metal and thermoplastic exterior parts, but also thermoplastic parts in a vehicle’s interior,” notes Gary Fielding, vice president and general manager, Color and Additives EMEA at PolyOne. “We have successfully helped carmakers transition from paint to MIC for many exterior applications such as skid plates and trims. This recent project is a significant step forward in reducing the cost to manufacture highly visible interior applications.”

Transitioning from paint to the use of MIC with Smartbatch FX helps manufacturers in the automotive, appliance, consumer goods and other industries create attractive, durable parts at reduced cost. PolyOne’s metallic-effect masterbatches can be incorporated into pre-colored compounds or dosed at a molding machine.

To provide customers with additional information on making the switch from paint to molded-in-color parts, PolyOne has created an eBook titled, “Trend Report: Efficient Manufacturing And Molded-In Color.”

Transitioning from paint to masterbatch for metallic-effect parts is not new, but it is nowhere near as widespread as one would expect according to some auto industry observers. Inertia — We’ve always done it that way — and legacy investment in paint lines, supports the continued use of paint.

The industry’s challenges, in light of COVID-19 and an uncertain economy, could open the door much wider to greater use of metallic-effect masterbatches, as these significantly lower cost per part. The challenge with masterbatch remains molding parts that do not have visual defects such as flow or weld lines.

The key to molding good parts is for OEMs to decide, very early on, that a part will be colored with molded-in color masterbatch; that decision will then support the development of a mold and part suitable for masterbatch.

“Typically, you do not want a bunch of holes or sharp curves in a part if you intend to use metallic-effect masterbatch. Too often, a mold is made for molding of parts that will be painted, and then — when it is time for a facelift — the OEM decides it wants to save some money and shift from paint to masterbatch. However, without investing in a new mold, the existing mold design often makes it very difficult for masterbatch to be successfully used. 

And though the argument against masterbatch always is about these visual defects, little is said about scrap from paint lines, which can reportedly be more than 20%. Painting is not only more costly, and energy-intensive; it also generates very high levels of non-recyclable scrap.

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