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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Plastic needs price advantage over other light-weighting materials
Plastic needs price advantage over other light-weighting materials
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The automotive plastics are bidding on trends like electric vehicles, rise in electronic components and 3D printing for demand. Cost is one of the factor which has not encouraged automakers to adopt high-end automotive plastics used in aerospace and sports cars. P Raghuvendran, Director, Primex Plastics Pvt Ltd, discusses current trends in the automotive plastics.
What recent trends have you observed in plastic automotive components? The trend that drives usage of plastics in automotive industry is lightweight components and energy efficiency as less weight helps to reduce emissions. High performance plastics used in the automotive industry finds applications in many ways today. Today, automakers are looking ahead to bring in fibre usage on doors and windows which adds on to the weight. Automakers are also exploring usage of such plastic in the panels which separates the two doors in a car. Currently metal and alloys are used as it is a crucial area from the safety point of view.
What will drive demand for automotive plastic in the coming years?
New technology indeed! New electronic systems used in the cars like VTS, entertainment, enhanced displays will be the areas that are expected to drive demand in the auto sector. Another major driver will be electric vehicles. Electric vehicles will open new component manufacturing arena which will be more of plastic, polymers, monomers and others.
Which are some new areas where plastics will be used?
Interior parts are much more amenable to plastic solutions. These components are smaller and do not demand higher strength and durability. The interior of the vehicle includes solutions throughout the cockpit, seating, flooring and door panels with innovative materials made from an array of plastics. Large functional components will also adopt usage of plastic but it will require some time and validation.
Plastic, as a material, has traditionally faced competition from aluminium, steel, magnesium alloys among others. In future, the competition is likely to be increased further from new-age materials comprising of composites, carbon fibre reinforced materials and nano-materials. To add to it, 3D printing could bring in new entrants into the industry which otherwise would not have been easily possible. 3D printing market in India is estimated at USD 1bn in 2015 with automotive sector contributing approximately 20 per cent of same. With improvement/innovation in 3D printing technology, commercial applications may become a reality sooner than we think and completely alter the automotive manufacturing value chain.
All of the above could completely alter the value chain of plastics in automotive industry in the future. Automotive plastic manufacturers need to adapt rapidly and build required capabilities to overcome such threats. Existing business models need to be re-assessed and changes need to be implemented timely to ensure that the business continues to remain relevant and successful.
Is cost holding back from using carbon fibre in automotive segment?
With increasing complexity of applications, price advantages of plastics over other light-weighting materials needs to be ensured. Since the plastic prices are linked to oil prices, there are concerns over its volatility. Commodity polymers used in automotive industry are derived from crude oil and thus are more prone to price volatility. However, the advanced engineered plastic prices are more driven by end use demand and less susceptible to price volatility of crude.
What future do automotive plastic manufacturers hold to?
Substitution of metal components in cars by plastics will continue to drive demand for plastics in the coming years. In the short term, this will be primarily driven by requirement of reducing vehicle weight to meet CAFC norms. In the long term, to keep costs in check, OEMs will further move towards composites which provide right price, performance and safety mix. To serve their customers, the plastics manufacturers will need to understand the direction in which the OEMs are moving and will need innovate and adapt for Indian requirements.
Plastic Automotive Components
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