Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division and Sumika Polymer Compounds Europe (SPC Europe), a leading manufacturer of thermoplastic compounds, have partnered to digitise the performance of new sustainable automotive-grade polypropylene (PP) compounds, enabling engineers to design components that are more recyclable and offer a lower carbon footprint for future vehicles.
Sumika Polymer Compounds' short glass-fibre polypropylene (GF-PP) THERMOFIL HP and recycled polypropylene (GF-rPP) THERMOFIL CIRCLE materials benefit from sustainable manufacturing and recycling processes and offer carmakers performance equivalent to incumbent engineering plastics, but with an up to 60% lower carbon footprint. A growing proportion of today's PP components are recovered and recycled compared to polyamides (PA), of which up to 70% are utilised in waste-to-energy initiatives or finish up in landfill, but there remains substantial room for improvement. These new Sumika recycled PP compounds are designed for the circular economy, contributing to plastic waste reduction at vehicle end-of-life.
Plastics can contribute up to 20% of the total weight of a car, and their application is escalating with the continuing replacement of metals. The automotive industry's shift to eMobility has increased the need for lightweighting components to maximise the energy efficiency of vehicles and mitigate the considerable weight of battery packs, but their environmental performance throughout the lifecycle must also be considered by product development teams.
"Limited material behaviour data is a barrier to sustainable eMobility innovations because automotive engineering teams have not been able to put new materials through the rigorous virtual durability and safety tests required for automotive endorsement," said Guillaume Boisot, head of the Materials Centre of Excellence at Hexagon. "Our unique multiscale material modelling technology accelerates the adoption of SPC Europe's ground-breaking recycled materials by making it possible for product development teams to accurately simulate a component and subject it to established automotive engineering test and validation."
This vital engineering data is the result of a long-term partnership between the two companies, providing product development teams the ability to evaluate the suitability of GF-PP compounds in new designs to address carbon-neutral targets by replacing traditional engineering plastics.
"Our THERMOFIL short glass-fibre reinforced polypropylene compounds offer equivalent performance to traditional engineering plastics while providing a much lower carbon footprint, which makes them highly suitable to meet design challenges that sustainable eMobility brings," said Bruno Pendélio, marketing manager for SPC Europe. "Combining our efforts with Hexagon allows us to support the race towards carbon neutrality by further lightweighting our customers' automotive components, reducing physical material testing and prototyping."
Hexagon conducted a detailed and rigorous testing and physical validation programme with SPC Europe to produce highly accurate multi-scale behavioural models of its THERMOFIL® HP grades and THERMOFIL CIRCLE™ portfolio of recycled PP grades. Each material grade has a model that simulates the materials' mechanical and environmental performance throughout a component's lifecycle. The encrypted proprietary material models can be accessed by SPC Europe customers through Hexagon's Digimat software. Digimat is interoperable with popular computer-aided engineering (CAE) software tools, such as MSC Nastran, Marc, and third-party software, empowering engineers to perform accurate analyses using established digital engineering workflows.