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Automotive Composites Alliance Reports New Composite Applications

  • Friday, 28th May 2004
  • Reading time: about 3 minutes

The Automotive Composites Alliance (ACA) has reported that reinforced thermoset composites and new technologies are making big inroads in 2004 models.

Most of the new technology is being harnessed particularly on the bodies, structures, and under the hood of some high-visibility SUVs, such as the GMC Envoy, the ZO6 Commemorative Edition Corvette, the Hummer H2, and the 2004 Durango, among others.

New for 2004 is the composite roof module on the 2004 GMC Envoy XUV. The sheet moulded composite (SMC) roof moves forward to clear space for bulky cargo, such as an upright refrigerator. Composites’ light weight, toughness and ability to withstand temperature changes make them the ideal choice for this module, as well as for the Envoy’s SMC endgate panel, manufactured by ThyssenKrupp Budd and the composite, next-generation MidGate to separate the passenger compartment from the cargo area.

Another SUV-style vehicle as reported in last weeks newsletter, is the 2004 Hummer H2 SUT, boasting SMC and structural reaction injection moulding (SRIM) composite for the endgate assembly.

“New SMC technologies are being used on a greater number of 2004 vehicles,” according to David White, Automotive Composites Alliance executive committee chairman and vice president for Meridian Automotive Systems. “Thanks to the use of ‘Tough Class A’ (TCA) SMC and new coating and primer developments, such as BASF Corporation’s Dynaseal UV-sealer, Fusion UV Systems, Inc.’s UV-curing process and Red Spot’s Pop Free, microcracks or ‘pops’ have practically disappeared as a concern for Class A composite body panels in terms of surface quality. Automakers’ acceptance of these technologies continues to grow in 2004.”

For example, the all-new Cadillac XLR, uses Ashland Specialty Chemical Company’s enhanced PHASE EPSILON SMC and BASF’s UV sealer technology on the front and rear roof, decklid, tonneau cover, a pillars and fuel filler doors. The parts are moulded by Meridian Automotive.

“These advancements in resins and sealers have reduced SMC Class A defect levels so they’re now comparable to steel,” says White.

In addition, Ford moved its current composite body panel material from traditional Class A SMC to TCA SMC on the following 2004 vehicles:
Mustang – hood, decklid and fenders
Thunderbird – hood, front fenders, decklid, removable top
Explorer Sport Trac – cargo box, rear body side panels
Lincoln Navigator – hood and front fenders
Econoline – hood outer panels
F150 FX Off-Road Series – box outer panels

Representing a major breakthrough for structural and underhood composites in 2004 are valve covers for DaimlerChrysler’s 4.7-liter V-8 engines using a composite material designed and developed by Premix. The valve covers also were a finalist in the SPE Innovation Awards competition in November, 2003.

Developed without prototypes in less than 12 months, compared to the typical 18 to 24 month programs, the valve covers significantly reduce costs. This development process underscores the advantages of utilizing composite technology versus competing materials such as magnesium, which was previously used.

For the sports car enthusiast, carbon fibre composite, ‘the race car material of choice,’ is being used for the hood of the 2004 Z06 Commemorative Edition Chevrolet Corvette. Weighing 33 percent less than standard SMC at 20.5 lbs., this carbon fibre outer panel is bonded, using a unique epoxy, to a hybrid carbon fibre/low density SMC inner panel moulded by Meridian.

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