If you want an automotive component to have strength, you must use steel, right?
Wrong. Suppliers are substituting high-strength plastic for steel in some components such as front-end modules and instrument panels.
What is it?
Injection molded plastic is mixed with glass fibers to create high-strength structural frames and carriers for components. These parts are stronger than standard plastic parts.
Where to find it
Faurecia SA said in July that it won a contract with the Chrysler group to make what it calls High Integrated Module door systems in the United States using a carrier made with an injection molded long fiber thermoplastic.
The module consists of a single structural plastic part that includes mechanical functions including the window lift unit, internal and external handles, speakers and electrical harness.
Also, ArvinMeritor Inc. introduced what it terms its Highly-Integrated Plastic door module, which uses a thermoplastic composite to replace a steel inner structure.
Structural plastic carriers first appeared in Europe. You can find them in front-end modules on the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne.
Even though the price of steel is high, the resins used to make high-strength plastics may cost more per pound than steel.
Major suppliers include Faurecia, ArvinMeritor Inc., HBPO GmbH (a joint venture with Hella, Behr and Plastic Omnium), RheTech Inc., Owens Corning and Visteon Corp.