Deploying Material Solutions for a Sustainable FutureBy Alejandro Enríquez | Wed, 09/08/2021 - 06:00
Q: How is 3M helping OEMs achieve their ambitious carbon neutrality goals?
A: 3M has a solid sustainability foundation. Since the 1990s, 3M has published periodic reports on the subject, making itself accountable to the public. This approach contributes to the automotive industry and to every other sector we participate in. Still, we have the ability and the responsibility to do more. The company is now focusing on three priority areas regarding sustainability. The first is “science for circular” as all our solutions are focused on doing more with less, obtaining better performance and improving material technology, which contributes to a global circular economy. All our new products follow our sustainability commitment. The second area is “science for climate,” in which we develop innovations toward decarbonizing industries and look for solutions to reduce our own carbon footprint. For example, our corporate offices in Minnesota are fully powered by renewable energies. Around 50 percent of our global operations will be powered by renewable energies by 2025. The third area is using science to contribute to communities as all of our efforts focus on creating a better world. Through science, we aim to improve quality of life. For example, we support STEM education for everyone.
Q: How is the company adapting to the electrification of the automotive sector?
A: Electrification and autonomous vehicles are among the biggest trends in the automotive sector. 3M has been working in electrification since 2018, when we created a specialized group to coordinate transversal efforts to address our clients’ needs. That specialized team and our technological capabilities allowed us to introduce thermal management solutions, electric isolation products and materials for battery cells. Various solutions are now available to the market and many companies worldwide are already testing them.
Within the electrification megatrend, there are different subtrends that must be addressed, including vehicle performance, the total cost of the systems, economics of scale, charging, battery autonomy, safety and comfort.
Q: How do 3M’s solutions differ between ICE vehicles and EV?
A: Despite the speed of the electrification trend, economies of scale will take time. Our traditional portfolio for ICE vehicles also works for EVs. We are a material science company, so component assembly, adhesives, material links and lightweight continue to be priorities. Our portfolio remains current and helpful to both types of vehicles but we are also considering how to expand our product portfolio to address the specific needs of EVs.
Electrification is so important to the sector that all of our divisions are looking for new solutions. Some solutions developed for the mining industry can also be applied to the auto sector, which is why the multifaceted nature of our company helps us to better support the needs of our customers.
Q: How are 3M’s R&D center in San Luis Potosi and the Customer Innovation Center in Santa Fe helping the company achieve its goals?
A: These are spaces designed to promote collaboration between the company and its customers. We hold workshops with our clients to better understand their challenges and show them our wide variety of products to come to a solution together. When we communicate how our products work, clients make quick associations to identify how a product fits their needs.
The R&D center in San Luis Potosi works closely with other centers around the world. That closeness promotes global coordination to continue developing our capabilities. The center in San Luis Potosi does not focus exclusively on the automotive sector but the developments there can be used in other markets.
Our global footprint allows us to be really close to our clients in all markets where they are designing vehicles. Our proximity to our clients is essential to understand their challenges and anticipate their needs. This is central to our innovation processes because there is no point in developing products without potential application.
Q: What is your perspective on additive manufacturing and other material science innovations?
A: The industry is evolving. The end-customer is putting pressure on OEMs to bring innovative solutions to the market. As a material science company, 3M can provide a broad portfolio of solutions. Many of our technological capabilities focus on our own manufacturing processes, which allows us to test new materials, automated manufacturing and other trends. We invest about 6 percent of our global sales in R&D. Our existing technological capabilities open an infinite number of possibilities. It is not just about investment but about exploring new technologies and materials and making them relevant to the market.
Q: What role will the Mexican market play in material innovation?
A: The Mexican market depends on the US market, particularly in industries like automotive and aerospace. Most companies consider Mexico as part of North America and not only in a geographic sense. In markets where global companies converge, the best strategy is global collaboration through close and open communication between markets.
The big push for electric vehicles is taking place in China, the US, Germany and Japan. Thus, we need to remain close to our teams to be aware of what is happening. This allows us to be aware of what models are coming years in advance and to support manufacturers in regard to logistics, components, material technology and other elements.
The Mexican market also faces its own challenges and provides insights and testing sites for upcoming products that will later be used in other markets. The challenge is to create a product that fulfills our customers’ needs globally while understanding the particularities of each market.
3M is a US company with over 100 years of experience and operations in more than 200 countries. It supplies several industries, including automotive, retail, healthcare, energy and construction.