Faurecia Interior Systems have been successfully supplying their biobased in-car materials LignoLite and NFPP to a number of OEMs for a number of years. At the IAA the company has been showcasing the standard they have reached on the BioAttitude wall and presenting their new BioMat concept which is made up of 100% biomaterial.
Over the past seven years, Faurecia Interior Systems has pursued an initiative to develop these materials, and today that effort has translated to the integration of natural fibres with new polymers for interior structures, yielding substantial benefits. BioAttitude represents Faurecia’s ambition to continuously and persistently create a positive impact on vehicle Life Cycle Assessment, reducing weight and CO2 emissions as well as sharply lowering dependence on the oil market. Faurecia’s BioAttitude, which marks its debut to the general public at the Frankfurt Motor Show is represented through products and processes that Faurecia has developed for using injection and compression methods for parts based on natural fibres. For each of the methodologies, the BioAttitude wall displays a door panel fashioned from the substance.
It is Faurecia’s ambition to continuously and persistently create a positive impact on vehicle Life Cycle Assessment, reducing weight and CO2 emissions as well as sharply lowering dependence on the oil market.
The first of the three processes is natural fibre for lean injected design (NafiLean), which has been developed to introduce green content into high-performance material for injected instrument panels, door panels and centre consoles on such components as trim parts, top covers, and defroster and closure ducts. Faurecia’s NafiLean is the automotive interior market’s injected material with natural fibres, which is said to allow for complex shapes and architectures along with weight reduction. NafiLean integrates a natural, hemp-based fibre with polypropylene (PP). This mixture produces injected parts with a substantial 20 to 25% weight saving in comparison with standard injection moulded parts.
LignoLite and NFPP
The third path that Faurecia is pursuing consists of innovations in natural fibre-based materials created by traditional compression processes. Faurecia’s LignoLight material combines wood fibres with oil-based binders. As with NafiLean and BioMat, LignoLite contributes to lightweight rigid parts, but it employs compression, rather than injection, to create the component. Because LignoLite is composed of up to 85% wood fibre, it is ecologically balanced. The value of this process can be seen in the new Mercedes Benz S-class door panels, made from Faurecia LignoLite. LignoLite can save as much as 45% of the door panel carrier weight compared with traditionally injected carriers. The reduced weight also leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the smart (Daimler) citycar features an instrument panel top cover and knee pad made of 50% PP and 50% flax fibres, whilst the VW Golf door panels include inserts made of similar materials, where natural fibres are used instead of wood fibres in LignoLite. This Natural Fibre PP (NFPP) compression technology is said to offer the additional benefit of reduced cycle times by enabling one-step compression and covering process, as applied to the Volkswagen Golf door panel. Accelerating along multiple paths, Faurecia is committed to making the choice of green materials easier and more competitive for the automotive market.
While NafiLean represents an intermediate step toward a complete biobased material, Faurecia’s BioMat project is ready to roll out an injection material with a 100% biobased material (natural fibres and bio-based matrix), eliminating oil-based materials. Working with partners in universities and the chemical industry such as Mitsubishi Chemicals, Faurecia has developed new processes for extracting substances for the matrix portion of the material from natural sources. In 2012, Faurecia signed an R&D agreement with Mitsubishi Chemicals Corporation to finalise the development of an optimised polybutylene succinate (PBS) for automotive applications. PBS replaces the PP as the matrix material. In BioMat, PBS is combined with hemp-based fibres to produce a material made totally from natural substances.
In its invention of this product and process, Faurecia was confronted with many inherent technical challenges, including the need to overcome potential biodegradation, ensuring the stability of the matrix when exposed to environmental factors, reducing its high viscosity, dealing with natural variability in fibres, and creating a new process for manufacturing the material. Through a series of patent pending solutions, Faurecia intended to eliminate with the BioMat technology each of the barriers, to offer the global auto market a sound, versatile and lightweight natural material that is expected to begin showing up in vehicles on the road as early as 2016.