Mazda co-develops bio-based engineering plastic; no painting required for exterior vehicle parts

Mazda Motor Corporation (Hiroshima, Japan) and Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (Tokyo) have jointly developed a bio-based engineering plastic that can be used for exterior parts for automobiles without the need for painting.

A bio-engineering plastic jointly developed by Mitsubishi Chemical and Mazda will be used in the new MX-5 sports car debuting in 2015.

The material can be colored to reportedly produce a finish of higher-quality than can be achieved with traditional painted plastic. "The deep hue and smooth, mirror-like finish of the surface make the newly-developed plastic suitable for external vehicle parts with a 'high design factor,'" according to Mazda.

Although an announcement by Mazda did no got go into detail about the nature of the engineering plastic, earlier this year Mitsubishi Plastics announced that a new grade of its Durabio bio-based engineering plastic was targeting automotive applications, specifically touch panels. The biopolycarbonate resin is also targeted at 'automotive housing' applications and it would appear that coloring such a clear plastic would realize a superior surface finish. Durabio employs plant-derived isosorbide as a feedstock.

Mazda has been proactively developing technologies in the biomass field for a number of years. To date, under the "Mazda Biotechmaterial" name, the company says it has developed the automotive industry's first high-strength heat-resistant plant-derived bioplastic for auto interior parts, and the world's first biofabric for vehicle seat upholstery made entirely from plant-derived fiber. However, to be suitable for exterior parts, plastics are required to possess not only a high quality finish, but also excellent weather, scratch and impact resistance in order to stand up to harsh environmental factors to which they are exposed. Achieving this combination of characteristics with bioplastics has posed a technical challenge.

Now, Mazda claims it has succeeded in making a material suitable for both interior and exterior parts. This has been achieved by optimizing the composition of a newly developed, highly processable and durable bioplastic base material with additives and coloring agents (patent pending), and optimizing molding parameters. This will enable the company to produce parts that are as durable as conventional painted ABS plastic parts yet feature a higher quality finish.

This bio-based engineering plastic will be used for the first time for interior parts for the all-new Mazda MX-5 which will be launched globally in 2015. Moving forward, it will be used for exterior parts in other production models.

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