By increasing the use of plastic parts, the auto industry has already achieved impressive reductions in vehicle weight and fuel consumption. Every year there is an increase in the amount of plastics used in today's automobiles compared to 15 years ago. The typical areas where plastic can be used are:
- exteriors components
- interior components
- glove boxes, bezels, air-vent assemblies, clusters and housings...
- diaphragms, air filters...
- air-cleaner ducts, bushings and valve parts...
- lighting systems
- engine components
- other automotive parts
More recently, manufacturers are turning their attention to the auto body and under-hood parts. The idea is to reduce the total vehicle weight by injection moulding thin-walled body panels. This will lower manufacturing costs by reducing the numbers of parts required and shortening assembly time.
The plastics injection moulding for the automotive industry is volume oriented. Mould makers and custom moulders are geared to long tool life and high volume production. Plastics equipment manufacturers, likewise, have concentrated almost exclusively on fully automatic, sophisticated injection moulding machines whose economics lie in single runs of 100,000 parts or more and in multi-shift operations.
The continued rate of growth in the industry hinges on the development of improved and new thermoplastics with greater physical properties. This has opened the door to applications never thought possible before. These are emerging both as product innovations and as existing products converted from materials such as metal, glass, wood or paper to plastics for competitive and economic advantage.