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3M Glass Bubbles S32HS breaks the density barrier in SMCs, enabling the potential to replace metal components.

Stephen Moore

May 21, 2018

2 Min Read
Glass bubbles deliver ultra-lightweight sheet molded composites with Class A paintable surfaces

Material lightweighting without compromising mechanical integrity is vital as automotive manufacturers look to improve fuel economy and battery range for electrification. Metals, although lightweight, can come with indirect processing and manufacturing costs and may become even more expensive with the uncertainty surrounding global metal supply.

Sheet molded composites (SMCs) are a viable alternative to metals in certain applications, while still achieving the desired physical properties. 3M has introduced Glass Bubbles S32HS to assist OEMs achieve up to a 40 percent weight reduction of composite parts, at a density below 1.0 g/cc, while still enabling a class A paintable finish. This development makes SMCs an attractive option in automotive design for OEMs.

“With the trend toward electric and high efficiency cars, reducing overall vehicle weight is key to staying competitive,” said Ray Eby, vice president of 3M Automotive Electrification. “A typical automobile has about 660 lbs. of composite parts. With ultra-lightweight SMCs enabled by our glass bubbles, OEMs can significantly improve a vehicle’s energy usage, while saving money– one less bump in the road in the race to automotive electrification.”

For many years, 3M has partnered with the automotive industry to enable weight reductions for major automotive manufacturers. By replacing conventional fillers, these hollow glass microspheres can reduce the weight of molded parts without sacrificing strength or aesthetics. For the first time, 3M has been able to break the density barrier, making ultra-lightweight SMCs more competitive to steel and aluminum, opening up new possibilities for the material mix in automotive applications.

“Our customers continue to challenge us to lower the density and weight of fiberglass reinforced material systems to support their automotive lightweighting efforts,” said Terrence O’Donovan, vice president, marketing and sales for Core Molding Technologies. “A density of 1.0 g/cc or below has long been a goal, while still enabling a Class A finish. Using 3M Glass Bubbles helps enable us to meet our customers’ expectations.”

3M glass bubbles are an established lightweighting technology used in enabling lightweight sealants, injection molded parts and SMCs. 3M continues to be at the forefront of automotive lightweight material innovation with the launch of Glass Bubbles S32HS.

About the Author(s)

Stephen Moore

Stephen has been with PlasticsToday and its preceding publications Modern Plastics and Injection Molding since 1992, throughout this time based in the Asia Pacific region, including stints in Japan, Australia, and his current location Singapore. His current beat focuses on automotive. Stephen is an avid folding bicycle rider, often taking his bike on overseas business trips, and is a proud dachshund owner.

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