The growing adoption of LED lighting, sundry lightweighting strategies and the trials and tribulations of OEM-supplier working relations were among the most-read stories in this year’s automotive and mobility category. Our countdown to the top stories of the year starts here.
10. Auto plant closure creates major opportunity for plastics manufacturers
One company’s misfortune can be another company’s fortune. A downturn in the U.S. automotive industry in 2017 created opportunities for other businesses. In a mid-2017 deal, an array of plastic injection molding equipment from a former Tier 1 automotive supplier was put up for auction. “This is an excellent way for plastics processing companies to acquire key machinery while staying within their budget,” said David Muslin, founder and CEO of PPL Group, which structured the deal.
9. GM jumps to third place, Nissan plummets in annual OEM-supplier relations study
Toyota and Honda topped 2017’s North American Automotive OEM-Supplier Working Relations Index study but GM was the biggest mover, up to third place. Nissan’s adversarial approach to reducing cost, on the other hand, has greatly disrupted relations with its suppliers and it is “safe to say that it has cost them tens of millions of dollars in supplier contribution to profits,” according to the study. The study is watched carefully by automakers because their supplier relations rating is highly correlated to the benefits the OEM receives from its suppliers—including new technology, lower pricing and support.
8. The future of automotive rides on engineering plastics
Blending “design and materials, advanced plastics and composites” will shape the car of the future, said Brian Krull, Global Director Innovation – Exteriors for Magna International. Krull noted that vehicles are expected to include 350 kg of plastics by 2020, a 75% increase, primarily by displacing more metal components with plastics and improving on their function. While 2020 is just around the corner and a 75% increase sounds optimistic, to say the least, there’s no doubting that increased use of plastics in autos is an irrefutable trend.
7. Largest-ever polycarbonate rear quarter window debuts on Buick’s new-generation GL8 MPVs
Polycarbonate is employed widely in LED lighting and it’s also expanding its presence in glazing. The rear quarter window in Buick’s GL8 MPV is 40% (3 kg) lighter and significantly more impact resistant than a comparable glass window. The plant in Yuyao, China, that molds the window is the first mass production PC glazing line in the country.
6. Plastics remain an important strategy for automotive lightweighting
While other strategies such as engine technologies (smaller engines, diesel engines and turbochargers), start-stop, and economy mode (50% of cylinders operating) admittedly have a greater effect on improving fuel economy than lightweighting, there’s no doubting that utilizing plastics to eliminate vehicle mass remains an important initiative among automakers. This was a topic of discussion at this year’s Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Cleveland event organized by PlasticsToday parent UBM. The conference and exhibition returns to the Huntington Convention Center on March 7 to 8, 2108, and includes the Plastec Zone.
5. Carbon-fiber-composite wheelchair casters function like airplane landing gear
A carbon-fiber composite has come to the fore in an innovative mobility device inspired by a quadriplegic rugby team. Switching from machined aluminum to a carbon-fiber composite for the forks enabled a design featuring a patented pivot point and wedge-shaped shock absorber that allow the wheels to move over impediments in an arc path, functioning much like airplane landing gear.
4. Carbon-fiber-composite subframe assembly replaces 45 steel parts with two molded and four metallic parts
The potential of carbon fiber not only to reduce mass but to consolidate parts was demonstrated this year by Ford and Magna in a subframe that was 34% lighter than its stamped steel equivalent. It also