Published On: Thu, Mar 19th, 2009

Ford breaks New Ground with all-Polypropylene Body Panels produced using LyondellBasell’s Hifax Compounded Resin

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — LyondellBasell Industries’ Hifax TRC 280X compounded polypropylene (PP) resin is being used to produce the tailgate outer panel and the roof spoiler for the Kuga, Ford’s new crossover model. It is the first time Ford in Europe has used an advanced polyolefin in a body panel application. The components are manufactured by German supplier Plastal GmbH.

he 30 percent talc-filled resin, specially tailored for the application, was selected due to its ability to deliver significant cost and weight savings with respect to steel and engineering plastics. “Looking only at the structural parts of the tailgate, we achieved weight savings of around 30 per cent compared to traditional solutions made out of steel,” commented Thomas Pleschke, Project Manager at Plastal.

Reduced weight translates into greater fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. With only 169 g/km, the Kuga has the lowest-in-class-CO2 emissions. “We are very pleased that our material contributed to our customer’s success,” said Neil Fuenmayor, LyondellBasell’s Customer Program Manager for Ford.

Hifax TRC 280X meets Ford’s stringent specifications in terms of low thermal expansion and high stiffness. Given the close integration with the rest of the steel bodywork, the thermal expansion was an important metric for Ford designers. With just 4.5×10-5 mm/mm/°C, the resin’s coefficient of linear thermal expansion (CLTE) is far lower than that of a standard PP resin and of many engineering thermoplastics. Compared to competitive standard PP resins, the Hifax PP compound offer stiffness of approximately 3000 MPa, whereas standard PP resins commonly used for exterior typically average 1500MPa.

Outstanding melt-flow characteristics

No less demanding were the application’s aesthetic requirements. Both highly visible parts must display a flawless surface quality for painting. LyondellBasell’s experts managed to develop a material enabling the manufacturer to produce parts with an extremely good surface quality. “This is due to the resins outstanding melt-flow characteristics of 18 g/10 min. Mold flow analysis carried out by our CAE centre helped to further optimize mold design and gating,” explained Fuenmayor.

“This application marks a significant step forward in the ability of polyolefins to satisfy the requirements of bodywork applications, which have historically been the domain of steel and engineering thermoplastics,” said Christoph Sondern, Vice President of LyondellBasell’s Automotive Business in Europe.

About LyondellBasell

LyondellBasell Industries is one of the world’s largest polymers, petrochemicals and fuels companies. We are the global leader in polyolefins technology, production and marketing; a pioneer in propylene oxide and derivatives; and a significant producer of fuels and refined products, including biofuels. Through research and development, LyondellBasell develops innovative materials and technologies that deliver exceptional customer value and products that improve quality of life for people around the world