Hexagon, specialised in digital reality solutions based on a combination of sensor, software and autonomous technologies, has joined forces with Japanese polymer producer - and part of Sumitomo Chemical - Sumika Polymer Compounds. The two companies have worked together on the development of more sustainable engineering compounds for the automotive industry and have come up with various short glass-fibre polypropylene (GF-PP) Thermofil HP grades and a recycled polypropylene (GF-rPP) Thermofil Circle portfolio. Using sustainable manufacturing and recycling processes, the companies successfully created PP compounds with a performance equivalent to incumbent engineering plastics, such as PA, but with a carbon footprint that is up to 60 percent smaller.
Plastics can contribute up to 20% of the total weight of a car, and are being increasingly applied as the metal replacement trend continues to gain strength. The ongoing transition to electric vehicles has served to reinforce this trend, as lightweighting is an essential step to maximise the energy efficiency of vehicles and minimise the considerable weight of battery packs.
However: “Limited material behaviour data is a barrier to sustainable eMobility innovations because automotive engineering teams have not been able to put new materials through the rigorous virtual durability and safety tests required for automotive endorsement,” said Guillaume Boisot, head of the Materials Centre of Excellence at Hexagon. The company’s multiscale material modelling technology has accelerated the adoption of SPC Europe’s recycled materials, as it allows product development teams to accurately simulate a component and subject it to established automotive engineering test and validation, he added.
Hexagon conducted a detailed and rigorous testing and physical validation programme with SPC Europe to produce highly accurate multi-scale behavioural models of both the Thermofil HP grades and the Thermofil Circle portfolio of recycled PP grades. A model was created for each grade that simulated the mechanical and environmental performance of the material throughout a component’s lifecycle. The encrypted proprietary material models can be accessed by SPC Europe customers through Hexagon’s Digimat software. Digimat is interoperable with popular computer-aided engineering (CAE) software tools, such as MSC Nastran, Marc, and third-party software, allowing engineers to perform analyses using established digital engineering workflows.
In this way, the suitability of the new GF-PP compounds for new designs can be evaluated; as well, carmakers replacing traditional engineering plastics with these more sustainable grades can take a further step in the direction of achieving their carbon-neutrality targets.
“Combining our efforts with Hexagon allows us to support the race towards carbon neutrality by further lightweighting our customers’ automotive components, reducing physical material testing and prototyping,” noted Bruno Pendélio, marketing manager for SPC Europe.