DETROIT - Two companies want to stretch plastic's safety net all around your next vehicle.
DuPont Automotive and Solutia Inc. recently launched a joint effort to promote the laminated window technology now used in windshields worldwide for use in side and rear windows.
If the business plan pans out, their Enhanced Protective Glass system could go into 3 million vehicles by 2005, up from 400,000 last year.
'We're getting on more and more vehicles now,' Victoria Holt, general manager of Solutia's Saflex Division, said this month at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Plastics in Automotive Safety Conference in Troy, Mich.
'We're already seeing implementation in the European marketplace and we're expecting that to take off in the United States,' noted Michael Sanders, automotive marketing manager for DuPont.
The system uses a sheet of polyvinyl butyral between two sheets of glass, laminated under heat and pressure. It is similar to the Saflex system that St. Louis-based Solutia now sells throughout the world for windshields.
Takes a beating
Most carmakers use tempered glass on side and rear windows, designed to shatter on impact. The Enhanced Protective Glass system, on the other hand, withstands several blows before giving way, Holt said. That reduces the potential for breakage in crashes and helps slow car thieves.
About 1,200 people die each year from injuries suffered when they are ejected through windows in crashes, Holt said. The polyvinyl butyral layer also allows the carmaker to tout improved protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays and reduced noise levels.
Laminated glass has gone into windshields for 60 years, but manufacturers had problems putting it in other car windows, Sanders said. For starters, laminated glass was too thick, making windows substantially heavier.
Exposed to the elements
Manufacturers also had to deal with windows that rolled up and down in side doors, meaning they were exposed to the elements, Holt said. The companies had to find a way to bind the glass so moisture would not seep between the glass panels.
They now have the lamination process needed to stand up to the elements, and glass thin enough that there is no increase in weight.
Expanding the system means the polyvinyl butyral could go into up to 6 square meters of glass on each car, up from 1.5 square meters in the windshield alone, Holt said.
The companies introduced the Enhanced Protective Glass system last year. It is standard on Mercedes-Benz S-class vehicles and the Audi A8, and optional on the Audi A6, Volvo S80, Peugeot 206 and 607 in Europe and Chrysler and Dodge Stratus in Mexico.
The suppliers are pushing the product in the United States this year. Said Holt: 'We are amazed at how many companies we go to that are not even aware there is a different system between the front and side (windows).'