As OEMs in the transportation industry seek out ways to reduce weight for greater fuel savings and, in the case of the automotive industry, meet CAFE standards, suppliers in the plastics industry are asked to help find new solutions. Thermoplastic composites are making a big gain in the aerospace industry as OEMs replace not only metal but thermoset components with thermoplastic composite materials. As the properties of composite materials grows, the opportunities to replace steel, aluminum, cast iron and other materials is becoming endless as there are now over 70,000 different composite resin alternatives.
Larry Gildea, president of Accu-Mold, told PlasticsToday that Accu-Mold's business related to metal-to-plastics conversion is becoming more in demand. Notably, many of the Tier 1 suppliers - particularly those in the metal parts fabrication business - are coming to Accu-Mold for help in finding solutions for lightweighting and cost reduction of automotive components. "The OEMs such as GM, Ford and Chrysler have a lot of resources at their own disposal in-house to do the evaluation of their parts," Gildea said. "Tier 1s have somewhat fewer resources per project so it's more feasible for Accu-Mold to get involved early in the game."
The plethora of technology advancements in polymers over the last five to 10 years has allowed greater flexibility in metal-to-plastics conversion. Conversions have gone beyond structural parts (brackets, etc.), to components such as bearings and parts that can take advantage of carbon-filled PPS where previously only metal was used.