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Azdel Superlite composite reduces weight and enhances performance in automotive interiors

GE Advanced Materials : 17 March, 2004  (New Product)
Azdel is investing in third Azdel Superlite composite production line at global supply facility in Lynchburg, VA. The introduction of a third Azdel Superlite composite line will add 7000 tons to the company
Already achieving successes in automotive interior programs, which include headliner, sunshade, and parcel shelf applications in the US, Australia, and China, Azdel Superlite composite is now being trialled by automotive OEMs in Europe.

Azdel Superlite composite is a low-pressure, thermoformable composite of a polypropylene resin matrix and chopped-fiber reinforcement. Developed specifically for automotive interior applications, the material offers light weight, a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, good dimensional stability, and high impact resistance over a wide temperature range. This combination of properties enables engineers to design components for vehicle weight reduction without compromising part performance or aesthetics.

As well as achieving weight savings of up to 50% in some components, Azdel Superlite composite also delivers production advantages. In headliners – the first application in which Azdel Superlite composite was used – this versatile sheet can be moulded directly in one step together with surface textile and special functional layers, thereby eliminating the several production steps required with traditional materials. Because of the product’s high stiffness-to-weight ratio, headliners can be constructed with ultra-thin profiles, down to 3mm thick, half the thickness of conventional systems.

“The combination of wide versatility and performance properties can make Azdel Superlite composite an excellent material for pre-assembled modular headliners,” says Gordon King, commercial director, Azdel Europe. “It allows the entire system to be mounted to a vehicle as a single assembly. Its light weight and low-pressure formability, often using existing tooling, means that Azdel Superlite composite has the potential to reduce system costs by up to 20%.”

To meet growing OEM demand for Azdel Superlite composite, Azdel is expanding its US-based global supply facility in Lynchburg, VA. The introduction of a third Azdel Superlite composite line will add 7000 tons to the company’s current annual capacity, totalling more than 25,000 tons when it comes on-stream this quarter.

According to James Forden, president, Azdel, “This investment reflects the strong interest in Azdel Superlite composite by the automotive industry and the global translatability of the application programs it’s supporting. This step-increase in capacity will help further ensure product supply, as well as confirm our ongoing commitment to serve this sector.”

With its low-weight advantages, ultra-thin profile, and high stiffness-to-weight ratio, Azdel Superlite composite can be formed with varying thickness and stiffness. Moreover, it allows manufacturers to use slightly modified existing tooling, helping to prevent creasing during the installation process. Furthermore, with better moisture resistance and lower emissions than traditional materials, Azdel Superlite composite can be an ideal candidate for interior applications.

The composite was recently chosen by Lear Corp. for the automotive interior integration program for the Ford GT performance vehicle. Azdel Superlite composite was specified for the headliner, bulkhead cover, door panels, pillar trims, centre console, and instrument panel. The material met all key criteria and demonstrated its cost efficiency in high-end, low-volume models. It also helped save an estimated 30% more weight per vehicle than conventional injection-moulded substrates. Currently in limited production, the Ford GT performance vehicle is scheduled to go into regular production in spring 2004.

In Europe, modular headliners, rear parcel shelves, door trim panels, underbody shields, and instrument panels made from Azdel Superlite composite are currently under development in cooperation with Tier 1 automotive suppliers. These include a novel instrument panel concept featuring a new NIS seamless airbag system that exploits the high integration opportunities offered by the product (which avoids adding extra parts or materials to the passenger airbag area). The high load-bearing strength-to-stiffness ratio of Azdel Superlite composite is also opening the way for its integration into new rear parcel shelf concepts now being explored by the industry.

The GE Advanced Materials’ Automotive Application Development Centre in Southfield, Mich, US, and its European Design Centre in Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands, provide the world's leading automotive manufacturers and tier suppliers with extensive technical support. Expert staff assist with concept generation, complete pre-production consultancy, application and performance prediction, processing simulation, feasibility and cost studies, advanced processing capabilities, system solutions, and innovative automotive expertise.

Moreover, GE Advanced Materials’ affiliates, Polymer Solutions Inc. in the United States and GE Polymer Design Associates in Europe, can assist customers with a complete set of design and engineering services, or with finding an optimal solution to a specific task. This support covers the full range of automotive disciplines – styling, engineering design, CAD, finite element analysis, model and prototyping, tooling, testing, and project management.
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