Color Palettes for the Trends of Today and TomorrowFri, 09/01/2017 - 14:42
Identifying trends is never easy, and predicting them before they are fully evolved is even harder. PolyOne decided several years ago to take on this challenge and get ahead of automotive trends.
Technology advances and changes proposed by PolyOne have one objective in mind, delivering the best possible technology solutions to improve driver experience. “Every year, PolyOne’s InVisiO designers investigate global inclinations and perform color research. The team develops unique palettes that resonate with both rapidly evolving developments and longer-term societal trends,” says Rodrigo Mosqueira, Senior Business Manager, Color and Additives of PolyOne de México. Customers can use these assessments as inspiration for their own designs and future product launches, and as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Initiatives beyond color preferences are influencing new car designs, such as weight reduction through customization metal replacement, elimination of paint and desired color harmony among plastics components. To reduce environmental impact, automotive companies are opting for lighter materials that limit fuel-consumption, such as Henkel’s use of resins, aluminum and magnesium for interiors that make cars lighter. A recent weight reduction success by PolyOne involved an underbody brace for high-performance cars. The company worked with its customer to replace aluminum with a thermoset composite material, reducing the component’s weight by 17 percent without compromising structural rigidity.
While lightweight composites for structural components could benefit the industry, Mosqueira believes it may take some time before they are widely adopted. To accelerate this process, he recommends open communication between OEMs and the companies in their supply chain. “OEMs are open to new technologies, but collaboration with the entire supply chain is critical for success because each participant needs to understand the innovations that are possible for use in next generation product designs.” PolyOne is also helping automotive customers to replace conventional painted plastic parts with those colored at the injection molding machine. Molded-in-color parts not only help reduce costs but also minimize harmful volatile organic compounds, while delivering production flexibility for customization. Mosqueira says: “When you look at the entire painting process, you will see it is not very ‘green.’ On average, a well-controlled plastics painting operation still generates scrap from over 10 percent of production, and unfortunately no current process exists for these scrap parts to be recycled.” By adding color at the injection molding press, Mosqueira believes auto parts producers can improve production speed and efficiency. “Estimates show that OEMs can reduce scrap rates to 2 percent or less,” he adds.
Another argument in favor of paint replacement is that the trend toward vehicle customization is accelerating. “We believe customization is one of the most important consumer trends for automotive,” says Mosqueira. Color is a crucial component of customization and differentiating a component at the molding stage allows for greater customization without additional cost. “With standard manufacturing processes, you would need to stock large inventories of multiple paint colors,” Mosqueira says. ”But molding in color at the press enables OEMs and part suppliers to produce only the required amount and customize small volumes, at competitive costs.”
In the very near future buyers might be able to enter a dealership and choose the color of the vehicle’s steering wheel, interior panels, gear shift knob and other components to truly reflect the personality of the driver. PolyOne sees this happening within the next two years. PolyOne’s product offerings and manufacturing facilities in Mexico gain relevance at a time when the hunt for costefficiency and competitiveness has made the automotive industry look for new production methods.
Despite discussions about trade treaties within North America, Mosqueira is confident about the future of the automotive industry in Mexico. “Automotive investments are not done in one day. These decisions are well planned, new ventures will not disappear from one day to the next,” he says. “We do foresee challenges but at the same time believe that the best is yet to come for Mexico and its automotive manufacturers."