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Performance Digitization Reveals Sustainability of PP Compounds

Sumika partners with Hexagon to digitize the mechanical and environmental performance of recycled short-glass-fiber reinforced PP compounds.

Stephen Moore

January 26, 2023

2 Min Read
windmills and cars
LUNAMARINA/iStock via Getty Images

Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division and thermoplastic compounder Sumika Polymer Compounds Europe (SPC Europe) have partnered to digitize the performance of new sustainable automotive-grade polypropylene (PP) compounds, enabling engineers to design components that are more recyclable and offer a lower carbon footprint for future vehicles.

"Limited material behavior data is a barrier to sustainable e-mobility innovations because automotive engineering teams have not been able to put new materials through the rigorous virtual durability and safety tests required for automotive endorsement," said Guillaume Boisot, head of the Materials Centre of Excellence at Hexagon. "Our unique multi-scale material modeling technology accelerates the adoption of SPC Europe's ground-breaking recycled materials by making it possible for product development teams to accurately simulate a component and subject it to established automotive engineering test and validation."

This vital engineering data is the result of a long-term partnership between the two companies, providing product development teams the ability to evaluate the suitability of replacing traditional engineering plastics with GF-PP compounds in new designs to address carbon-neutral targets.

Sumika Polymer Compounds' Thermofil HP short glass-fiber polypropylene (GF-PP) and Thermofil Circle recycled polypropylene (GF-rPP) materials benefit from sustainable manufacturing and recycling processes and offer carmakers performance equivalent to incumbent engineering plastics, but with an up to 60% lower carbon footprint. A growing proportion of today's PP components are recovered and recycled compared to polyamides (PA), of which up to 70% are utilized in waste-to-energy initiatives or finish up in landfill, but there remains substantial room for improvement. These new Sumika recycled PP compounds are designed for the circular economy, contributing to plastic waste reduction at vehicle end-of-life.

"Our Thermofil short-glass-fiber reinforced polypropylene compounds offer equivalent performance to traditional engineering plastics while providing a much lower carbon footprint, which makes them highly suitable to meet design challenges that sustainable e-mobility brings," said Bruno Pendélio, Marketing Manager for SPC Europe. "Combining our efforts with Hexagon allows us to support the race toward carbon neutrality by further lightweighting our customers' automotive components, reducing physical material testing and prototyping."

Hexagon conducted a detailed and rigorous testing and physical validation programme with SPC Europe to produce highly accurate multi-scale behavioral models of its Thermofil HP grades and Thermofil Circle portfolio of recycled PP grades. Each material grade has a model that simulates the materials' mechanical and environmental performance throughout a component's lifecycle. The encrypted proprietary material models can be accessed by SPC Europe customers through Hexagon's Digimat software.

Digimat is interoperable with popular CAE tools, such as MSC Nastran, Marc, and third-party software, empowering engineers to perform accurate analyses using established digital engineering workflows.

Plastics can contribute up to 20% of the total weight of a car, and their application is escalating with the continuing replacement of metals. The automotive industry's shift to e-mobility has increased the need for lightweighting components to maximize the energy efficiency of vehicles and mitigate the considerable weight of battery packs, but their environmental performance throughout the lifecycle must also be considered by product development teams.

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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