Asia leads in growth; new developments promote lighter vehicles

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While safety, driving pleasure and aesthetics are factors influencing a vehicle purchase, the automotive industry is also committed to producing more fuel efficient cars as environmental concerns gain traction, with a 10% reduction in vehicle weight equivalent to as much as 7% lower fuel use.

Asian region leads in automotive sales

The ASEAN is not leaving any stone unturned in automotive innovation. After all, the region’s automotive industry is well-positioned in the global market, according to US-based Lucintel that indicates a CAGR of 6.5% from this year to 2022.

This growth is driven by increasing automotive production and increasing demand for lightweight materials to achieve higher fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Lucintel states. Plastic composites have wound up in vital applications such as the exterior, interior, and power train systems, with the latter expected to be ASEAN’s largest market building up further through 2021.

Thriving automotive parts manufacturing, buoyed up by strong car sales in the region, provides the boost for automotive plastics, which Transparent Markets Research says will cross the US$33 million mark by 2018.

The region’s largest vehicle market is Thailand, which bolstered by its Thailand 4.0, is lunging ahead as the region’s automotive hub. Global industry players are flocking to the country to take shot of its ascendancy. Japan is among several nations that have strong trade links with Thailand, and has been expanding investments not only in the automotive sector but also the robotics and automation sectors.

Indonesia, the world’s tenth largest manufacturing power, will have vehicle sales of 1.1 million units this year, according to US consultancy Frost & Sullivan. In August, the country posted a 0.2% increase in car sales, or 96,466 units, compared to last year’s 96,282, according to Indonesian automotive industry association Gaikindo.

Malaysia reported a 6.5% increase in vehicle sales, or 3,167 units in August this year, compared to July, yet sold 0.9% lower or only 51,720 against 52,219 units during the same period last year, according to the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA).


On account of production, slightly more vehicles rolled out in August this year at 43,688 units compared to 43,452 units the previous year. Nevertheless, the country looks to further strengthening its sales, especially leveraging its bilateral trade with China, which has high demand for automotive spare parts.

Sales of vehicles in Vietnam, which contracted earlier this year, are slowly picking up, according to the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA). It says that vehicle sales rose 50% year-on-year in February, compared with a contraction of 12% in January. The country is in the midst of developing its upstream automotive parts manufacturing base. The market grew by slightly over 27% in 2016, thus becoming the second fastest growing in the world after Singapore; and the world’s 34th largest in sales, having sold 228,478 units against global car sales of 84.24 million, according to UK-based market analysis firm JATO.

Meanwhile, the Philippines, which posted high production and sales of both four and two-wheeled vehicles in the first five months of the current year, witnessed an 8.7% growth in August, compared to the same month a year ago. A joint report by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) shows that 35,309 units were sold in August against 32,472 sold last year. The presence of major car makers like Toyota, Isuzu and Hyundai continues to sustain the industry.

Overall, the robust car sales outlook in the region portends an equally strong demand for automotive plastics.

Material suppliers expand and improve polymers

German firm Kraiburg TPE will introduce a new TPE material with adhesion to EPDM at the upcoming Fakuma show in October. The new compounds of the Thermolast K series also feature high resistance to UV radiation and weather influences, in addition to good flow properties. Targeted at exterior applications, pilot projects include window seals consisting of EPDM profiles with moulded TPE corner joints.

At Fakuma, materials firm Lanxess will promote its XTS2 heat stabilisation system (Xtreme Temperature Stabilisation), which increases the continuous operating temperatures of certain Durethan PAs to over 230°C. A glass fibre-reinforced PA66 grade, Durethan AKV35XTS2, provides an alternative to heat-stabilised speciality thermoplastics, such as fully and semi-aromatic PAs and polyphenylene sulphide (PPS). Possible applications include air intake modules with an integrated intercooler or air ducts near the turbocharger.

Flame-retardant PAs and polyesters that have major potential for use within electric vehicles and selfdriving vehicle designs represent another key area for Lanxess. One example is Pocan AF4130, a blend of PBT and ASA (acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylate), suitable for precision components within vehicle battery systems because it has low warpage and shrinkage and is highly flame-retardant.

High-heat resins for lighting parts

Sabic has introduced new PC materials for LED automotive lighting parts to cater to complex LED headlamps that can weigh 6 kg with up to 200 components.

When moulding LED parts, a low draft angle is important because it enables styling freedom as well as a larger optical surface. However, with a lower angle, parts start sticking in the mould, creating scuff marks and cosmetic defects. To overcome this, Sabic developed Lexan HF4010SR that allows for draft angles between 0.5 and 1.0 degree lower than the recommended draft angle for PC tools (typically between 3 and 5 degrees).


Bezels moulded in the new high flow resin can be directly metallised (no need for priming), while gloss and reflectivity performance under high temperatures of up to 130°C are said to be good.

LEDs are relatively cold light sources but can still generate considerable amounts of heat. To cater to this, Sabic has added new grades to its existing Lexan high flow XHT portfolio as drop-in alternatives to standard PC. Sabic adds that a bezel moulded in Lexan XHT2171, for example, could weigh 37% less than a bezel in a rival PBT material, as well as render cost savings of up to 40% per bezel, by avoiding the use of complex tools, enabling faster moulding and part integration.


At Fakuma, German materials company BASF will promote its Ultrason polyethersulphone (PESU) E, able to withstand continuous exposure to temperatures of 180°C to 220°C, for headlights. Other features are its resistance to moisture and vibrational related stresses, as well as high dimensional heat stability that enables the production of complex geometries.

Solar vehicles feature composites and biobased top coat

Teijin Aramid, a company of Teijin Group, will see its para-aramid fibre Twaron deployed in the solar-powered vehicles developed by the KU Leuven and University of Michigan teams taking part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, the world’s biggest solar car racing event, taking place in Australia from October 8-15. The KU Leuven team is using Twaron-based parts above the tracking box and in the driver safety canopy to allow the vehicle to send and receive electromagnetic signals. The University of Michigan team is using Twaron to reinforce the undercarriage of the vehicle, utilising the material’s abrasion resistance and high strength-to-weight ratio.

A bi-annual event, the solar vehicle race was inaugurated in 1987, and this year’s race is the 14th in the series.


Meanwhile, German firm Covestro is supporting students at RWTH Aachen University and Aachen University of Applied Sciences by having developed a solar-powered electric car.

It features coating supplier PPG’s three-layer polyurethane coating, suitable for carbon fibre composite parts. The clear coat, which forms the top layer of the coating system, contains biobased hardener Desmodur eco N 7300, developed in collaboration between Covestro and BASF. Almost 70% of the hardener’s carbon content is sourced from renewable raw materials.


The coating has also been trialled by car maker Audi to test bodies of the Audi Q2 under near-series conditions at its plant in Germany.

Weight savings through honeycomb laminates and composites

Japanese automotive OEM Toyota has adopted a honeycomb material solution for the trunk cover of its new hybrid model Prius PHV launched this year. The solution is based on ThermHex thermoplastic honeycomb core technology developed by EconCore. Featuring a combination of strength, rigidity and optimised material performance, the honeycomb delivers weight savings of 50%, compared to previous conventional materials based on cardboard and metal. This specific trunk cover was developed by Japanese firm Gifu Plastics.

ThermHex also allows direct lamination of thermoplastic skins as well as other facing layers Toyota_-honeycomb (including composites and metal) onto the thermoplastic honeycomb core to offer lightweight sandwich panels. EconCore has licensed the technology to firms such as Renolit Group, Gifu Plastic, Tata Steel, Röplast, ThermHex Waben, Fynotej and Wabash National.

Lanxess’s Tepex dynalite continuous-fibrereinforced, semi-finished thermoplastic composites are now finding new applications in vehicle interiors. One example is the backseat system of an off-the-road vehicle made by a European automobile manufacturer. The centre backseat is equipped with a loadthrough that enables the backrest of each seat to Lanxess’s-multiaxial-reinforced-Tepex be folded down individually. This component, developed by Brose Fahrzeugteile in Germany, is produced by shaping and back-injecting Tepex dynalite, allowing for a 40% lighter part than its steel counterpart.

Multiaxial Tepex is a new development from Lanxess subsidiary Bond-Laminates, which makes the composite sheets stronger by combining the Tepex fabric with tapes in a technical process. The semi-finished product for the load-through has a core consisting of four layers, each 0.25 mm thick, with a fibre orientation of +45 and -45 degrees relative to the component’s longitudinal axis. These are arranged symmetrically to absorb the torsion forces.

French automotive supplier Valeo has developed a top column module whose housing and levers are made of BASF’s engineering plastics Ultramid PA and Ultradur PBT. It is said to be 20% lighter than the previous model and benefits from the surface finish and good UV resistance.


For the indicator and windshield wiper levers Valeo uses Ultramid B3EG10 SI (SI= surface improved). For the two-part core module it employs PBTs Ultradur B 4520 and B 4300 G4. The latter material, with 20% glass fibres, is processed by Buck Spritzgussteile Formenbau using the MuCell foam process. The surface polyamide, which is filled with 50% glass fibres, offers a combination of mechanical and visual properties. The material was originally developed for the furniture industry. Valeo carried out tests on the resistance of car interior components in accordance with DIN EN ISO 1043-1/GS 93016.

Getting rid of squeakiness

Spain’s Elix Polymers has developed a range of ABS and PC/ABS grades to reduce the squeak that is generated by the contact of plastic parts with other plastic parts, leather, PVC foil or other products, which was costly to get rid of. Automotive interior parts affected include door handles, seating parts, cup holders, and air vents.


Elix says the new grades were submitted to stickslip tests at several automotive OEMs, in accordance to VDA230-206 using testing machines from Ziegler Instruments. It had positive test results, with grades scoring 1, the lowest risk level, compared to ten, the highest risk level. Tests were conducted with different forces (10N, 40N) and speeds (1 mm/second and 4 mm/ second) at several temperatures.

Elix says the new grades use its standard ABS, high heat ABS, ABS/PC or PC/ABS, allowing key properties and shrinkage to remain the same, which means current moulds can be used without any modifications.


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