Plastic Omnium (Paris, France; www.plasticomnium.com) is developing modules that integrate functions, reduce weight, and provide pedestrian protection. They are part of a growing "modular strategy" that extends from the company's joint venture with Hella and Behr that produces front and rear end modules (See www.autofieldguide.com/articles/050501.html). "Sales of the HBPO (Hella Behr Plastic Omnium) front end module joint venture were 300 million in 2004, rising to 450 million in 2005, and," says Plastic Omnium chairman and CEO Laurent Burelle, "we see sales at 1.0 billion by 2010." Three concepts first shown at Frankfurt indicate the direction the company hopes OEMs will follow.
Made up of two sub-modules, the RFM has an upper structure that can take a variety of "top hats" that will support a number of body styles, and a standardized lower structure that includes the trunk lid, floor, fuel system, and the bumper and its energy absorptions components. This unit is designed to meet the latest rear crash standards, lowers the load floor, and integrates the fuel tank-and a thin urea tank for diesel-powered vehicles-into the floor and makes use of what otherwise would be "dead" space in this area.
Designed for the smallest of vehicles-those in the A and B segments-it combines a thermoplastic outer with a thermoset inner that would be painted off line. SMC is used for the inner panel because of its superior results in meeting Head Injury Criteria (HIC)-a reading of 800 in 45 mm versus 950 in 50 mm with steel-and a 5-kg weight reduction when compared to conventional steel panels. Integrated functions include: a cowl tank with filling access, support for the wiper system, guides for cooling air, an acoustic shield, a collapsible structure for head protection, and antennas for the audio system. This highly integrated structure, Plastic Omnium says, improves the perceived quality of the front panels because gaps and flushness are improved via reference mounting directly on the fascia and fender, it reduces costs by 15% when the integration is taken into account, and would evolve to a sealed hood structure that includes hood flaps for service items.
An injected thermoplastic outer panel is bonded to a rigid thermoset inner in this design that can accommodate complex shapes. "When combined with the adhesively bonded inner and outer panels," says Marc Szulewicz, president, Automotive Exteriors, "you not only have a tailgate that is up to 50% lighter and 20% less expensive than a steel component, it gives greater design freedom." The injected thermoplastic outer is made of a new 30% filled polypropylene, and the completed piece is more than 50% lighter than steel when the function integration is considered. "Ideally," says Szulewicz, "the part would be delivered as a completed module that was painted off line. We have many patents pending on this design, and our customers have responded to it very favorably."