2019 Plastic Manufacturing Trends in Automotive Production
As the car manufacturing industry evolves, plastics have repeatedly replaced metallic core components of every automobile, allowing cars to be sleeker, lighter, and more efficient.
Plastic manufacturing for the automotive industry however, has only scratched the surface. New incremental improvements in molding, pressing, and plastics welding, to name a few, crop up each year. Also, changing automobile designs have pushed plastics experts to find new ways to mold, texturize, and bind these materials.
In 2019, these are some of the most prominent plastics manufacturing trends in automotive production.
4 Plastic Manufacturing Trends in Automotive Production to Watch in 2019
1. 3D Printing
While still in its early stages, 3D printing in automotive production holds the promise of faster cycle times. Companies have begun vetting the viability of 3D-printed cars, as with Italian manufacturer XEV and their production of the LSEV. Using plastic extrusion printers, cars could theoretically be produced on a massive scale with extreme cost savings, and design-wise, offer creative texture via vacuum lamination.
But 3D printing isn’t reserved for small, Starbucks-worthy electric vehicles. A recent report revealed that automotive 3D printing has gained a stronger foothold in the heavy trucking sector. Companies like Daimler are using 3D printing for products like dashboards and other interior trim pieces.
2. Electric Vehicles
Tesla isn’t the only electric vehicle manufacturer out there. While they may be one of the first to commercialize a large scale of high-end electric vehicles, they certainly won’t be the last. Long-time incumbents like Porsche and BMW are making progress on high-performance electric vehicles of their own.
The rapid growth in demand for EVs has opened new opportunities for plastics manufacturers, who are working to develop interior and exterior materials that are lighter for greater performance. In addition, Volkswagen’s MAN EVs carry a “green,” zero-emissions designation, placing pressure on plastics manufacturers to seek sustainable, eco-friendly solutions for creating their products.
3. Cars Made Out of Plastic
One of the most exciting potential trends to watch is the growing interest in producing plastic cars. In addition to the profits that plastics manufacturers can earn on electric cars, the future possibility of plastic cars could revolutionize the plastic manufacturing industry.
Respected designer Gordon Murray, who had run successful star programs at Mercedes, produced the T.25, a vehicle that is made principally out of plastic and has extraordinary gas mileage.
Plastics are already widely used in automotive manufacturing, in fact, the more plastic that can be used in a vehicle, the better the gas mileage will be.
ABS, a common thermoplastic polymer, is used to produce vehicle parts like dashboards and wheel covers while polyethylene is used for electrical insulation. POM is another plastic that goes into fuel systems, small gears, and trim.
4. Innovation in Plastics Materials
Three words best capture where plastics manufacturing benefits automobiles; lighter, faster, and versatile.
Year over year, engineers develop new compounds to accomplish this trifecta of achievement in plastics manufacturing. A recent example is Nouryon’s Expancel, which is an expandable microsphere plastic with the combined qualities of low density and high strength.
What are the Next Trends?
When taken together, the automotive plastics market is continually being shaped by advances in 3-D printing technologies, and the further possibility of plastic cars. High quality, reliable plastic assembly remains a critical part of the automotive industry.
Leaders in plastic assembly technologies, like Thermal Press, continues to grow and adapt our technology to provide superior equipment, tooling and consulting. Since 1976, we have led the way with thermal press and heat press. We look forward to seeing what the future brings and continuing to drive improvements and cost savings.