International Automotive Components (IAC), a global automotive and mobility leader in lightweight and new-material interior solutions, won two 2017 Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) Automotive Innovation Awards in the Body Interior category. The IAC Coreback injection molding process used to produce the 2017 MINI Countryman subcompact SUV instrument panel carrier has been recognized for its lightweight features and the caster-based BIO Foam beneath the 2018 Ford Fusion instrument panel was awarded as a sustainable innovation.
The awards were presented during the 47th annual SPE Automotive Innovation Awards Gala held Nov. 8, at Burton Manor in Livonia, Michigan. The program is the oldest and largest competition of its kind in the automotive and plastics industries. Dozens of teams made up of OEMs, tier suppliers and polymer producers submit nominations to earn the title of the Year’s Most Innovative Use of Plastics.
The Coreback premium lightweight process allows for a 15-to-20 percent component weight reduction on one of the vehicle interior’s largest and most important structural parts. Coreback reduces the initial instrument panel carrier wall thickness to 1.8 millimeters from a traditional solid injection-molded component of as much as 2.2 millimeters. During the process, a chemical foaming agent is added to the resin. After the resin compound is injected, the mold is opened to a maximum of 4 millimeters to generate a foam layer in the middle and creating a product with leading stiffness-to-weight performance, says the company.
For the MINI Countryman, IAC says it carried out extensive computer-aided-engineering work to predict foamed-part warpage. This allowed tooling to be modified in advance to avoid any potential production issues and ensured a flawless launch.
The BIO Foam material is caster-based and provides weight savings up to 40 percent while enabling higher design flexibility. It can be molded in as little as three-millimeter cross sections and exhibits better bond strength compared to traditional petroleum-based foams. On the Ford Mondeo/Fusion limousine, IAC applied BIO Foam using a foam-in-place (FIP) process, where foam is injected between the skin and retainer to produce a thin foam layer contributing to a light and sustainable instrument panel.
“It is rewarding to see our lightweight and sustainable products recognized by SPE, as these continue to be key for our OEM customers,” said Dr. Rose Ryntz, IAC vice president of advanced development and materials engineering. “Working in close collaboration with our customers and our supply chain, we have been able to bring these innovations quickly and flawlessly into serial production. This is the unique advantage of our vertically integrated approach to development, which ranges from material development, product, process and tooling design, validation and testing.”
Coreback leveraged the support of material supplier SABIC and tool maker Siebenwurst. BIO Foam for FIP applications was developed in collaboration with BASF.