Reducing Weight for Interior Plastics the Sustainable Way
A plastics compounder in the UK proves lightweighting and sustainability aren’t mutually exclusive objectives, at least not for interior trim parts.
Luxus (luxus.co.uk) is a British plastics company has supplied automotive plastics for 30 years, mainly producing interior trim components. It’s now committed to developing recycled plastics into new compounds for more sustainable products.
Luxus recently developed an innovative polypropylene (PP) for interior trim moldings called Hycolene, which greatly reduces talc filler by using an additive instead. This new compound saves weight and contains 49% recycled material. Hycolene is also more scratch-resistant than traditional, higher talc-filled PP—an important characteristic for Class A interior components.
Teaming with additive manufacturer Milliken (millikenchemical.com), Luxus leveraged the company’s Hyperform reinforcing additive to create the Hycolene compound. Hyperform boasts higher stiffness and impact resistance than talc-filled components, and most importantly, weighs less. This additive also allows for faster production times and reduced warpage compared to talc.
Luxus tested the new Hycolene material by molding an interior door trim component for the Nissan Qashqai. Luxus currently produces a 40% recycled content PP interior door trim for the production Qashqai. The improved grade matched the performance of the existing compound, and Hycolene took to the existing injection mold without requiring a new mold.
“We basically introduced the new material to the mold and it took to it straight away without any issues,” says Terry Burton, technical manager for Luxus. “We made a like-to-like material, despite the fact that we took the compound from a 25% talc-filled product right down to a lower-filled product.”
Hycolene contains 10% talc, Burton notes. The talc reduction not only helps save 10 to 12% of weight-per-part, but also lessens what Burton calls the “whitening effect” of higher talc content, helping to make plastic parts with crisper coloration.
“With less talc content, we can go to sharper blacks because you need less pigment,” Burton explains though he admits, “Mainly we can do dark gray and black, but we can do lighter colors on a smaller volume of material.”
Hycolene is currently being evaluated by a number of OEMs, Burton says. The material costs more than higher talc-based plastics at this time, but this is offset by the number of moldings achieved per ton of compound. Additional Hycolene grades are in development, and the possibility for greater color variations could make the compound attractive for luxury vehicles in particular, he adds.
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