How New Auto Requirements Drive Increased Opportunity for Plastics


Forward Engineering Managing Director Adam Halsband’s presentation at Virtual Engineering Days highlights the plastics industry opportunities that arise thanks to the auto industry’s push for weight reduction.

His session, “New Automotive Requirements Drive Increased Opportunity for Plastics Industry” covers issues like meeting customer and technical requirements within the available design space, how trends toward electrification and driver assistance systems are translating into new vehicle technical requirements, and how upstream and mid-stream suppliers of plastics, semi-finished goods, process technologies, and components can capitalize on these new demands.

Forward Engineering is an engineering services company that focuses on composites-intensive mixed materials structures including the entire development process from concept to product validation. “We do that hard work at the front end of understanding the challenges that our clients have into a production solution,” Halsband explained. “We work with OEMs, suppliers, and materials suppliers, up and down the value chain throughout the activity cycle.”

The goal is to help participants in each step of the way commercializing a new material or process understand how to work with the other participants, he said. “Each group is so busy with their part of the equation, it is difficult to step back and have a balanced perspective on the complete solution,” said Halsband.

“You are doing it as a partnership across multiple stakeholders who have a vested interest in overcoming those barriers,” he said. To do this, participants need to have a clear understanding of what the problem is that is being addressed. “Have a clear common goal. That takes a lot of work.”

The three pillars of evaluating the whole process are design, simulation, and materials, he added. “We go deep on simulation-driven design,” Halsband stated. “We look at the combination of understanding materials and leveraging simulation and production-based solutions.”

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The industry move to electrification is an example of a challenge being addressed by the various participants in the plastics industry. “How is electrification affecting the design of vehicles?” Halsband asked. “You’re putting this very, very heavy, very big battery pack in a vehicle. How do you elegantly integrate this giant component into the vehicle without destroying its structure?”

One solution is the potential use of organo blanks. These are carbon fiber composite materials similar to carbon fiber that is pre-impregnated with resin. But while pre-preg is a floppy, fabric-like material, organo blanks are rigid, like panels of metal. These can be connected to build structures. Organo blanks themselves aren’t a solution, but they can be incorporated into the solution for affordable, strong, lightweight structures such as battery enclosures, Halsband pointed out.

To learn more about this, attend Halsband’s Virtual Engineering Days presentation Wednesday, June 16, 2021.



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