Engineering Insights: BMC Creates New Dimensions in Underhood Apps

Specially formulated material enables production of high-tolerance automotive engine air intake component.

The past 20 years have seen the introduction of numerous metal-to-composite conversions in automotive engine-compartment applications. Although weight reduction can be a factor in such conversions, the focus increasingly is on improving performance at the same cost, or reduced costs vs. metallic components through parts integration, materials and processing innovations or both.

Most of the easy substitution of plastics for metals in engine compartments was done in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, composite-for-metal replacement is complicated because the opportunities for part conversion involve more stringent mechanical and thermal demands and, therefore, require the use of high-strength, usually glass-reinforced polymers with excellent mechanical performance at operating temperatures of 140°C/284°F and higher. Fortunately, modern design tools and improved molding technologies are enabling replacement of metals with high-temperature thermoplastics and thermosets in applications that only a few years ago were thought to be too difficult for polymer-based materials.

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