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NAIAS: Lincoln replaces fiberglass with cellulose reinforcement

The big green story at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which opens to the public Saturday, is the effort to lightweight vehicles, with the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 pickup truck the real big development.  But there are other stories as well.

The big green story at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), which opens to the public Saturday, is the effort to lightweight vehicles, with the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 pickup truck the real big development.

 But there are other stories as well.

Ford, for example, is replacing fiberglass with cellulose-reinforced polypropylene in the 2104 Lincoln MKX

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Console susbtrate goes green. (Lincoln)
production vehicles. The cellulosic reinforcement is 6% lighter than fiberglass and is made from renewable resources. The material is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between Lincoln, Weyerhaeuser and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls.

Cellulose-reinforced polypropylene replaces the fiberglass material traditionally used in the floor console armrest substrate, a structural component located within the center console armrest. While cellulose reinforced polypropylene has been used on Ford prototype vehicles in the past, the Lincoln MKX is the first production vehicle application.

According to compounder RTP, cellulose fiber provides higher strength and stiffness, consistent color, superior processability, low odor, and a reliable supply in comparison to other natural fibers such as wood, hemp, and sisal or natural fillers like wood flour and wheat straw.

Processing advantages of cellulose fiber over glass fiber as a reinforcement in PP include average cycle time reductions up to 30% for medium to thick walled parts and reduced tool wear.

Lincoln is studying increased use of the material, says Ellen Lee, team leader, plastics research at Ford.

"If we transfer its use to larger parts, it could really benefit the vehicle weight, which benefits fuel economy," Lee said. "Cellulose has good reinforcement, so we looked at fiberglass-reinforced materials for this project."

MKX is built at Oakville Assembly Complex in Oakville, Ontario. The cellulosic fiber is made in Wisconsin.

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