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Lightweighting in automotive materials

October 19th, 2016 / By: / Industry News

Since the first automobiles hit the road, coated fabrics have fulfilled a critical role in decorative and functional surfaces for various trim applications such as convertible tops, seat covers, headliners, and other soft flexible components. In his presentation, Matt Williams, The Haartz Corp., discussed the latest innovations in these coated fabrics ranging from customizable jacquard weaves to lightweight and environmentally friendly artificial leathers, and including energy-reflective surfaces.

Applications of traditional trim materials include tops, headliners, seating and trunk liners. Fibers used to make these traditional products were cotton, wool, mohair, rayon and acrylic. Coatings included natural rubber, pyroxling and PVC.

Modern applications of trim materials include airbags, security shades, brake diaphragms, and brake and wheel liners. Modern materials used to make these parts are solution-dyed acrylic, PET, TPO, TPV, TPU, PU lacquer and DWRs.

PVC-free soft-trim materials, like TPO, TPU, TPE and lacquer coating, provide a variety of benefits to the end products: reduced density, plasticizer free, low-temp flexible performance, low emissions, and they are free of phthalates, heavy metals, halogens and toxic biocides.

TPO interior trim parts in particular offer a moldable, soft skin for applications like doors, consoles, seatbacks and coverstock. Traditional cut-and-sew soft TPO skins help in applications like in doors and coverstock, as well as seat covers using TPU skin.

The weight savings are significant: up to 49 percent weight reduction of soft tek TPO bilas versus expanded PVC.

IR reflective coatings reflect energy away from the vehicle and keep the vehicle cooler. Recycled fiber textiles offer non-fluorinated water-repellent finishes, bio-based plasticizers and RF weldable olefins.

Auto interiors have widely accepted TPO-coated fabrics and foams for hand-wrap and moldable trim parts. Opportunities exist to expand applications to automotive exterior trim. These products offer significant weight savings with reduced emissions, providing greener solutions for the industry.