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Chinese automakers gain better access to long fiber compounds

Chinese automakers gain better access to long fiber compounds
Sabic's Innovative Plastics business is investing in a production line for Stamax long glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene (LGFPP) at its manufacturing site in Shanghai, China. The new capacity, expected to come on stream during the second half of 2015, brings Sabic's Stamax operations closer to customers in China and Asia Pacific and responds to increased demand for the lightweight LFGPP material from automakers in the region.

Sabic's Innovative Plastics business is investing in a production line for Stamax long glass fiber-reinforced polypropylene (LGFPP) at its manufacturing site in Shanghai, China. The new capacity, expected to come on stream during the second half of 2015, brings Sabic's Stamax operations closer to customers in China and Asia Pacific and responds to increased demand for the lightweight LFGPP material from automakers in the region.

front end
Front-end module of Changan's CX30 molded from LGFPP.
Automakers have reportedly employed Stamax resin as a weight and emissions reduction solution since the early 2000s, primarily for large molded parts and semi-structural parts such as front-end modules, door modules, instrument panel carriers, tailgates and seat structures according to Sabic.

 "With this move to bring local supply of Stamax resin to China and Asia Pacific, we are demonstrating our commitment to ensure our expanding customer base in the region has a reliable supply of this important material technology," said Alan Leung, vice president of global and Asia Pacific commercial operations for Sabic's Innovative Plastics Business.

 "Sabic is committed to delivering the material science and development support to help its automotive customers progress further in reducing vehicle weight and lowering emissions," said Scott Fallon, general manager, Automotive, Sabic's Innovative Plastics business. "Compared to the use of steel, Stamax resin can make possible weight savings of up to 50%, making it an excellent material for lightweight construction. Indeed, this resin has already proven itself in hundreds of automotive applications as an enabler of both weight and cost savings."

 Sabic currently operates two Stamax resin plants: one in Genk, Belgium, the largest greenfield PP compounding plant ever built in Europe; and one in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, which opened in November 2011. The Stamax resin production line in Shanghai will be built using the same state-of-the-art design and technology of those in Genk and Bay St. Louis. As a result, Sabic will be poised to deliver uniform product quality for its customers' global platforms from each plant.

"With the continuing trend and importance of global vehicle platforms, it is increasingly necessary that automakers have the ability to specify and receive the same high quality material in one region as they do in another," Fallon said. "Our Stamax resin production line in Shanghai will enable us to continue meeting this critical customer requirement."

Increased need for lightweight-enabling materials like Stamax resin in China, in particular, comes at a time when the country is taking important strides to address the challenges of air pollution. China's Ministry of Environmental Protection has committed to reduce vehicle emissions, which is said to be the source of about a quarter of the country's air pollution.

The difference made by a material like Stamax resin is evident when comparing its use in a front-end module (FEM) carrier versus one with a polyamide-steel hybrid (PA hybrid).  According to Sabic data that has been verified by GreenOrder, a leading sustainability consulting firm, a FEM molded out of Stamax resin has a life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of 78 kg vs. 149 kg with a PA hybrid solution, a 48% reduction. That data also shows that the FEM with Stamax resin also has a lower life cycle energy footprint of 1,200 megajoule (mj) versus 2,140 mj for one with a PA hybrid solution, a 44% reduction.

Stamax resin also reportedly enables manufacturers to advance from traditional multi-part steel components to single injection molded modules, which can help manufacturers to lower overall system costs by increasing automation and reducing additional processing and assembly. The material is said to offer excellent stiffness across a wide temperature range and high dimensional stability.

Boosting design support

In addition to the new Stamax resin production line, Sabic is adding on-the-ground specialists in China and Asia Pacific to strengthen its design support offering in the region. These specialists work closely with Sabic's customers on process and mold design and can deliver technical support during processing and production. Services include ultra-light mechanical design, mechanical calculations, mold flow studies and warpage simulations.

 An example of Sabic's support is its work with Changan, one of China's largest automakers, on an all-plastic FEM for its CX30 model - the first Chinese-developed vehicle with this type of part. Changhan uses Stamax resin to replace steel, cutting part weight by up to 40% and total vehicle weight by approximately four kilograms. In addition to weight reduction for improved fuel economy and lower emissions, the all-plastic FEM solution reduces overall system costs for Changan by enabling modular assembly for improved efficiency on its production line. In support of Changan, Sabic provided technical support and engineering design services, including advanced computer analyses and training.

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