DaimlerChrysler’s innovative application of abaca plant fibre in underfloor protection for passenger cars has been recognized with an award presented at JEC earlier this week.
This company, along with the supplier specialists Rieter Automotive and Manila Cordage, received the award from the European composite materials association in the category “Ground Mass Transportation”.
DaimlerChrysler has already been successfully using natural fibres such as flax, hemp, sisal and coconut for several years in vehicle interiors; now for the first time, a natural fibre component is being used on the exterior of a passenger car as a covering for the spare wheel recess.
The new combination of PP thermoplast with embedded banana fibre was patented by DaimlerChrysler’s researchers, and the manufacturing process has been initiated by Rieter Automotive. Manila Cordage, a manufacturer of semi-finished products from the Philippines, supplies the fibres of the banana variety “Musa textilis”, commonly known as “abaca”. These fibres are 1.5 to 2.7 meters (4 ft 11 in to 8 ft 10 in) in length, have a high tensile strength and are resistant to rotting; for this reason, they are traditionally used for making ropes. Abaca is the first natural fibre to meet the stringent quality requirements for components used on the exterior of road vehicles, especially resistance to influences such as stone strike, exposure to the elements and dampness.
The challenge was to adapt the LFT process for natural fibres while maintaining fibre length and correct distribution of fibre in the matrix.
Prof. Herbert Kohler, Head of the Vehicle Body and Drive Systems Directorate and DaimlerChrysler Environmental Officer, commented on this natural fibre innovation: “With more than 15 years’ experience in research, we are now the only automotive manufacturer to use the high-performance abaca fibre on the exterior of a vehicle.”
“In close cooperation with DaimlerChrysler and Manila Cordage, we have impressively demonstrated our capacity for development,” said Gerard Seuvre, Head of Research & Technology at Rieter Automotive Management AG, at the award presentation. He added: “In view of time considerations, the required expertise, and the distance to the raw materials suppliers in the Philippines, the success of this project was by no means a foregone conclusion.”
The company claim that the use of abaca fibre can bring about primary energy savings of 60 percent or more compared with glass fibre production.
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