Perspectives for plastics


Booth C43 in Hall 06

Lewis E. Manring offers insights from two perspectives. For DuPont Performance Polymers (DPP), he drives the technology map and heads up the R&D and Technology teams. For the DuPont Corporation, he guides the Technical Strategic Direction for one of the three Scientific Domains – Advanced Materials. Plastics met him on the occasion of the pre-K press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland and spoke with him about the past and the future of polymers in automotive.

Side impact beam made from PA66 with continuous glass fibres (photos: DuPont)

Lewis E. Manring, Vice President – Global Technology, DuPont Performance Polymers & Automotive Technologies

Plastics: At the K Fair you are aiming to showcase a number of further developments in your materials. Looking at the plastics in your portfolio and the automotive sector, where are you pinning your hopes to achieve maximum market penetration?

Manring: The first thing to make clear is our belief that the proportion of all plastics in the automobile is set to increase. Polyamides are already a basic when it comes to automotive manufacturing, however, I believe that the market share of polyamides is likely to increase over the next few years. Thermoplastic composites are also interesting lightweighting solutions which certainly deserve a mention.

Plastics: In your R&D work you are putting particular emphasis on renewably sourced materials to the extent that in the long term more than half of your current portfolio will come from renewable sources. Would we be correct therefore in concluding that you see excellent growth opportunities in this sector?

Manring: Absolutely correct. We are investing in research that will transform our polyamide and polyester raw material bases and are bolstering our portfolio with new chemically enhanced long chain polyamides into hose and tubing applications like fuel lines and brake lines. Renewably-sourced materials are a central part of DPP’s future and are the first priority area. DPP is committed to developing bio-based alternatives to fossil fuel based materials used today, whenever financially sound and technically feasible. We believe within these financial and feasibility constraints, it is possible to develop biobased materials for more than half of our current portfolio. In our renewably sourced materials portfolio are materials like Hytrel RS, a thermoplastic elastomer made using 20-60% renewably sourced polyether glycols made from non-food biomass. Sorona EP renewably sourced thermoplastic polymers, containing 20-37% (by weight) renewably sourced propanediol (PDO) made from technical starch  and Zytel RS, containing 63% to 100% renewably sourced content that comes from sebacic acid which is derived from castor oil, the most versatile, non-food competing natural products are other examples.

Plastics: We tend to think of biobased materials almost exclusively in terms of electric cars, where ecologically aware customers go hand in hand with lightweighting auto manufacturers. Would this be a fair interpretation?

Manring: Not entirely. Electric cars will certainly benefit from these developments, but no more than the other automotive segments. The most important consideration in respect of biobased materials is to reduce the CO2 footprint. This is of interest to many OEMs and at the end of the day, it is of interest to the car buyer – as is anything connected with the fuel consumption of his vehicle.

Plastics: At K you will also be showcasing your new developments in heat-resisting materials with particular emphasis on under the bonnet applications. What new opportunities do you foresee here, and at what point does the material reach its limits?

Manring: It is our belief that there is still a great deal to do here! Let’s look back at the trend over the past four decades. 40 years ago nobody would have regarded the manufacture of an air intake manifold, a cylinder head cover or an oil pan in plastic as something which was actually feasible. Nevertheless, development work on the material continued and today all of these applications can be produced in plastic. At the same time cars are also becoming ever more technology-based. 20 years from now, the combustion block may well be a thing of the past, because maybe we will all be driving cars powered by batteries or fuel cells.

Plastics: Can we look at structural components as an example of this new way of thinking?

Manring: Indeed. Structural components are another big transition. As an example, we worked with PSA Peugeot-Citroën on a side impact beam using the Vizilon technology made from PA66 with continuous glass fibres to achieve a 40% weight reduction compared to the ultra-high strength (UHS) steel version, while absorbing more energy than metal and short-fibre polymer beams. Here we have managed to achieve a 40% weight saving by comparison to a metal solution while absorbing more energy than metal and short-fibre polymer beams. According to our analysis conducted with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, this technology is well suited for crash components.

People like to think that cars were safer in the past because more metal was used in their construction but the opposite is true, cars today are much safer. The Institute for Highway Safety has produced a good video showing a collision between a 1959 Bel Air and a Chevy Malibu. It vividly demonstrates just how far we have come in terms of driver and passenger safety over the past 50 years.

Plastics: To conclude, can we look ahead; what are you most keen to see at K?

Manring: Naturally, the new developments we have in the pipeline will be my prime objective. This year at K 2013 we will showcase where we have partnered with customers to develop new solutions. Other than that, however, I am particularly curious to find out what our competitors are doing, the efforts they will be making to present themselves at this year’s K and the noveltlies that will emerge from K.

Plastics: Mr Manring, many thanks for the interview.

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