Steel and high-strength plastics are joining forces for new injection molded parts aimed at replacing metals in crash-resistant automotive applications. Targeted parts are bumper beam carriers, front ends as well as BIW (body-in-white) components.
Three European companies are developing injection molded nylon components that are reinforced with steel cord fabrics in technology they are calling EASI — Energy Absorption, Safety and Integrity.
The companies are BASF (Germany), Bekaert (Belgium) and voestalpine Plastics Solutions (Netherlands). Use of steel cord is an addition to the types of structures now widely used: continuous fiber-reinforced laminates or other carbon or glass fiber fabrics. Carbon-fiber reinforced plastics fit well for structural applications, such as floor modules, where they provide necessary strength, while also reducing weight. Use of steel cord impregnated with nylon targets places, particularly in the front end, that require crash resistance.
The three partners previously worked on compression molding with GMT (glass mat reinforced thermoplastics).
Bekaert contributes its expertise in the manufacture of steel cord fabric, while voestalpine Plastics Solutions is responsible for the processing technology. BASF is continuing to develop its crash-optimized short or long fiber-reinforced polyamide specialties for use with the steel cord inserts. BASF is also working on simulation software for the technology.
Use of polyamide as matrix material allows attached or semi-structural parts and allows integration of components of the body-in-white (BIW), which need to run through the e-coating process.
BIW refers to the pre-painting stage in auto manufacturing in which a car body’s components have been welded together, but before doors, hoods, and deck lids have been added.