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The Use of Plastics in the Automotive Industry

The automobile is arguably one of the most significant inventions of the last century. Cars and trucks not only improve personal transportation, but they enable businesses to transport goods and services economically and effectively.

Drivers have begun to expect a lot from their vehicles, such as getting more miles per gallon or better reliability. Improved automotive performance demands components that can handle it all, from heat and stress to weight and aesthetics.

That’s why plastics are increasingly crucial to automobile manufacturers and their supply chain partners. Today, plastics make up roughly 50 percent of the volume of parts in new vehicles, but only 10 percent of those vehicles’ weight.

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Designers of automobiles have begun swapping out metals and other materials for plastics in a variety of automobile component sectors. Examples include:

  • Interiors
  • Exteriors
  • Chassis
  • Engine
  • Electrical
  • Safety

Preservation

When a loved one gets behind the wheel, you want them to arrive at their destination safely. Airbags, windshields, and other energy-absorbing innovations reduce vehicle fatalities. Front-end modules, modular seats, and bumpers also help save lives. Plastics are found in all these products.

Automotive designers and industry regulators want vehicle materials to absorb energy instead of transferring it to occupants. The industry calls this a controlled crush. Plastics can absorb many times more crush energy than steel.

Reliability

When vehicle operators get into the passenger seat, the last thing they want to worry about is being stranded somewhere.

Automobile electrical systems once consisted of a few components. In recent decades, however, these electrical systems have undergone significant changes. They now include automation systems such as anti-lock braking systems and satellite radios. Without plastics, these innovations are not possible.

Electrical system components must be strong, lightweight, and capable of withstanding wear, friction, heat, and corrosion. Low-friction plastics can be used in steering column switches, and they require less maintenance than metal.

There is a range of additional vehicle parts manufactured from plastics that we use daily. Examples include:

  • Seals
  • Gaskets
  • Seating components
  • Edge protectors
  • Edge trims
  • Sunroof trims
  • Wiring harnesses
  • Instrument panels
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Structural hardware
  • Door panels
  • Circuit boards
  • Consoles
  • Driveshaft components
  • Transmission components
  • Upholstery
  • Fabrics
  • Electrical connections
  • Connectors
  • Powertrain components
  • Switches

Plastic proliferation

The role of plastics in the design and manufacture of vehicles has never been more essential. Regulations and changing consumer habits are driving demand for more affordable, lightweight, and fuel-efficient cars.

Preferred Plastics is an industry-leading custom plastics extruder offering turnkey extrusion and finishing services, and we are passionate about the innovative uses of plastics in automobiles. Our team specializes in the manufacture of standard and custom plastic automotive components.

If you’re looking for a fabricator to produce high-quality plastic parts for your automobile application, Preferred Plastics is here to help.

Contact us for more information.