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Putting the "Pedal to the Composites".

The Automotive Composites Alliance (ACA)--an industry trade group comprising raw-materials suppliers, molders, and toolmakers that supply reinforced thermoset composite products to automakers--reports that reinforced thermoset composites and related technologies are being used extensively on the bodies and structures and under the hoods of many 2004 model year vehicles. Among the benefits afforded automakers by these composites:

* they typically reduce component weight by 35%, helping improve fuel economy and reduce exhaust pollution;

* they can create tooling cost savings of up to 50% compared to steel;

* they speed time to production;

* they are ideal materials for niche vehicles and applications because they can be moved into production quickly and can offer design freedom to create distinct products that stand out from the "crowd"; and

* they can combine constructions made up of numerous, complex metal components into a single module, saving costs in tooling and assembly.

As the result of new "Tough Class A" SMC (sheet molded composite), developed by AOC and ThyssenKrupp Budd, and coating and primer developments, microcracks or "pops" have been virtually eliminated as a concern for the surface quality of Class A finishes for composite body panels, according to the ACA. It reports that coating and primer technologies have been introduced by several companies--Dynaseal UV sealer from BASF Corp., a UV-curing process from Fusion UV Systems, and the "Pop Free" process from Red Spot Paint and Varnish Co. Ford Motor Co. uses Tough Class A SMC on several of its 2004 vehicles: Mustang--hood, decklid, and fenders; Thunderbird--hood, front fenders, decklid, and removable top; Econoline--hood outer panels; and F150 FX Off-Road Series--box outer panels.

Ashland Specialty Chemical Co.'s enhanced Phase Epsilon SMC and BASF's UV sealer technology are used in the Cadillac XLR on the roof, decklid, tonneau cover, A pillars, and fuel-filler doors. Other examples of the use of SMC in 2004 vehicles include the roof module, endgate panel, and "MidGate" structure that separates the passenger compartment from the cargo area on the GMC Envoy XUV.

To provide weight reduction and better dent and impact resistance compared with sheet metal, the rear fenders on the 2004 Silverado QuadraSteer pickup are constructed from composites using RRIM (reinforced reaction injection molding). The load floor on the GMC Envoy utilizes a SRIM (structural reaction injection molding) composite, which provides for weight reduction and durability. Bayer Polymers' polyurethane technology is used on both the GMC load floor and Silverado fenders.

Valve covers for DaimlerChrysler's 4.7-liter V-8 engines and General Motors Corp.'s line of modular inline four-, five-, and six-cylinder engines are made from a composite material designed and developed by Premix, Inc., specially for use in structural and underhood composites. The prototypes were completed in less than 12 months, versus the typical 18- to 24-month programs, at significantly reduced costs. In the design of the valve covers, underhood temperatures that can exceed 450[degrees]F presented the greatest challenge, according to the ACA. Advantages provided by the use of composite materials for the valve covers include the ability to reduce noise by one to two decibels, the ability to replace adhesives, and the ability to use press-in-place gaskets.

Automotive Composites Alliance, 342 Main Street, Rochester, MI 48307;

(248) 601-9960; Fax (248) 601-9963; www.autocomposites.org; e-mail:

emillerschin@auto-pr.com
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Title Annotation:Materials; Thermoset composite; Automotive Composites Alliance
Comment:Putting the "Pedal to the Composites".(Materials)(Thermoset composite)(Automotive Composites Alliance)
Author:Blanco, Alice
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:540
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