Studies by the EPA and other organizations show that each 5 percent of vehicle weight removed can improve fuel economy by 2 percent. Generally, replacing a metal component with a plastic one results in a 50 percent weight reduction, so the math is attractive to designers striving to reach Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets.
Here are ways you can ensure you don’t take any missteps when removing weight:
1. Stop thinking one-for-one: Rather than looking for materials that can replace a metal part using the identical geometry, designers are now capitalizing on the additional freedom to form plastics into net shapes. Polymers are formed differently and have inherent properties that are optimized by using best practices for their design.
2. Don’t wait too long to select materials: Engage with a polymer supplier early on in the design process to specify the exact material attributes you need. Knowledgeable suppliers can also open your eyes to material possibilities you may not have considered, either with new formulations or additives and fillers.
3. Think function, not just weight: Don’t miss the opportunity to improve the function or manufacture of the part – use plastics’ inherent design freedom to tackle problems other than just weight.
4. Eliminate the all-or-nothing approach: Critical components may indeed require metal for certain attributes, but that doesn’t mean plastic is entirely out of the picture. Plastic / metal hybrid designs can bring the best of both worlds – reduced weight and structural integrity. Investigate processes that enable plastics and metal to be formed together, including insert molding and heat staking.
Avoiding lightweighting mistakes helps to:
How PolyOne can help: You can rely on the expertise we’ve gained in developing automotive material solutions for a wide range of electrical and lighting applications. We’ll supply you with proven solutions that take the hassle out of achieving your goals.