There is a growing trend within the automotive sector towards lightweighting by way of replacing metal components with high-quality plastics. DSM Engineering Plastics is a company that offers solutions in the replacement of metals with high-grade thermoplastics to Indian companies. We spoke to Anand Diwanji, Business Director, India, DSM Engineering Plastics, to understand the offerings of the company to customers in India, various levels of adoption, as well as its solutions for future mobility demands.
Diwanji said DSM has most-recently introduced two new products to its portfolio. The first and most recent addition to the company’s portfolio is ForTii Ace, which is a Polyphthalamide (PPA) or high-performance Polyamide that is targeted at replacing metals in the construction of components. ForTii Ace, like PPAs in general, is used in circumstances where advanced mechanical properties are needed for components. PPA has been completely developed by DSM at its R&D centres in Europe.
The second product is a Polyphenylene sulphide (PPS), which is an engineering plastic, commonly used as a high-performance thermoplastic. PPS is being manufactured in China by DSM, along with its joint venture partner NHU, and is a chemically-inert material, noted Diwanji. He said that it is therefore used wherever extreme chemical resistance is required.
With regards to the relevance and usage of these PPA and PPS thermoplastics in India, Diwanji said that these products help in achieving goals of lightweighting, which the entire industry is currently looking into. However, these new technologies are first adopted in developed countries like the US or Europe. In the case of Indian OEMs, companies would ask for examples of components being manufactured by replacing metal with these thermoplastics. While there is relevance in India for the company’s products, the time taken to adapt to these technologies is very high, added Diwanji.
In the Indian context, the move towards thermoplastics is still limited to components under the bonnet, said Diwanji. Components mostly around the powertrain, transmission system, and air/fuel systems are the ones that are being manufactured with high-quality thermoplastics. These are components like integrated air intake manifolds and airbag containers, for which plastics are replacing metal construction. However, Diwanji said that the replacement of material from metal to thermoplastics for the manufacturing of critical components is still being carried out, by and large, in Europe.
When asked about solutions from DSM to assist vehicle manufacturers to conform to emission norms that are getting increasingly stringent, Diwanji took the example of the company’s Stanyl high-temperature Polyamide 46. He said that Stanyl provides excellent gear properties and has good resistance to wear and low friction, along with good abrasion resistance for moving parts. It is typically used in chain tensioner guides to reduce friction.
FUTURE MOBILITY SOLUTIONS
Connected Vehicles is a very broad field within the automotive sector, but what it means to an engineering plastics supplier like DSM is that there is a need for such materials that can work in very harsh environments. These engineering plastics need to be capable of working in high temperatures, as well as when exposed to different kinds of oils, and also need to be easy to manufacture, said Diwanji.
He said that a new process called Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) is now replacing the traditional method in which printed circuit boards (PCB) were manufactured. The LDS process makes it possible to produce high-resolution circuit layouts on complex 3D carrier structures, thus integrating casings and PCBs within one unit that were previously separate. The process is based on doped thermoplastic materials on which the tracks required for the circuit layout are activated by means of targeted laser radiation, and then metallised in a chemical bath. Diwanji said DSM has developed materials that are suitable for LDS method of manufacturing, and this is a way in which it is contributing to connected cars.
With the implementation of BS VI norms, the overall temperatures under the bonnet of cars is expected to increase, leading to the need for materials with better thermal management characteristics, said Diwanji. DSM has developed a portfolio of materials under the name Diablo, which are capable of taking continuous use temperatures of up to 230°C. In addition, these materials have good behaviour in terms of the long-term thermal heat ageing performance when compared to traditional materials, added Diwanji.
Within the area of electric mobility, Diwanji said there is an increased use of connectors and cables. DSM is said to offer a high-performance ThermoPlastic Copolyester (TPC) that offers high temperature resistance when compared to PVC, thus proving to be better for the manufacture of cables. Diwanji also said that in years to come, the number of small electric motors to power actuators is set to increase, for which DSM’s material to construct gears will be optimal. He explained that the advantages of using plastic gears include improved efficiency, lowered noise levels and improved wear resistance.
Automotive electronics will be a big driver of technologies of the future, especially with the increased consumer demand for technologies inside the vehicle, Diwanji said. DSM is also carrying out a high level of collaboration with its customers and suppliers, especially in terms of upcoming trends within the industry. DSM believes that core technologies need to be developed by its customers (both Tier 1s and OEMs), for which it can supply materials to address the needs of those technologies. He concluded that the company currently has enough capacity to satisfy Indian customers, and will make investments when needed for expansion or any other purpose.
TEXT: Naveen Arul