An Unwavering Sustainable VisionFri, 09/01/2017 - 23:08
The trend toward lighter materials in the automotive industry is more than just a cost-saving tactic; it provides tangible benefits for end users and contributes to environmental sustainability efforts, says Juan José Zaragoza, Marketing and Sales Manager and Mexico Country Leader of DuPont Performance Materials - NEP/HPS.
“People tend to think that lightweight trends only address cost-efficiency needs but that is not the case,” says Zaragoza. “Lighter materials result in a more efficient vehicle that demands less power from the engine.”
DuPont Performance Materials has now made its core business to deliver lighter components that meet the cost requirements of both automakers and suppliers, while maintaining the same structural soundness companies can gain from metal applications. “DuPont Performance Materials has even innovated to integrate recycled material into its polymer resins for further environmental gain,” he says. As a raw material supplier, DuPont is in a crucial position to support companies as they innovate to create greener solutions. “Our engineering polymers are the primary material to produce an auto part that will go into a system and that will finally end up in a vehicle.” DuPont also participates in the design of new components and ensures the final proposal meets quality and functionality standards.
The company also works in process optimization to help reduce costs. “All manufacturing processes need energy and work, which means consumption. If raw materials are processed in the most efficient way, energy costs are lower and production cycles are optimized,” he says. DuPont’s operations in Mexico have expanded to now represent 70 percent of the annual revenue in the Performance Materials division. Zaragoza says recent investments in the country are paying off. “We reached double-digit growth in 2016,” he says. “Our expectations for 2017 are to maintain growth thanks to our business with Japanese and European suppliers.”
Technology will play a key role in sustaining DuPont’s growth and as it supports its clients’ sustainable development. DuPont has been responsible for the invention of fibers like nylon that are now commonly used in a variety of
applications, including automotive. Zaragoza says nylon is a crucial component in under-the-hood components including intake manifolds, fans and water-recovery pans. “Polymer components have made vehicles not only lighter 195 but safer,” he says. “Auto parts now have a higher impact resistance, have a longer lifespan and are better adapted to manage harsh environmental conditions.”
The automotive industry is constantly innovating and plastic is becoming more relevant in automotive manufacturing with each new design cycle. “Components are now made of plastic even when they have a structural or mechanical role,” says Zaragoza. The implementation of fuel-efficient technologies has also presented an opportunity to create materials with higher heat resistance and heat dissipation rates. “Turbochargers have helped downsize engines from eight to four cylinders while maintaining the same performance. Nevertheless, they have also incremented the temperature in the exhaust by more than 50 percent,” says Zaragoza. “Automakers need materials that can dissipate that heat and prevent it from reaching the cabin.”
Even electrification trends are impacting plastic applications. Connectivity and automation require the use of sensors and connectors and these parts need a plastic cover that can withstand heat and wear. “Clients now look for increased connectivity and advanced electronics technology in their vehicles and that is where DuPont can participate,” Zaragoza says. Like many companies that do business globally, DuPont is also keeping an eye on the political environment in the US, which has placed a focus on the automotive industry, among others. One area of concern is US support for sustainable practices but Zaragoza says the industry will continue its quest toward efficiency and improved performance. DuPont continues to believe that US participation in the Paris Agreement would benefit both the US economy and the global environmental future. “We remain committed to working with governments, companies, NGOs and other international players to bring solutions to the market that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and enhance competitiveness,” says Zaragoza.