3M: Glass Bubbles for Automotive Composites
By replacing conventional fillers, these hollow glass microspheres can reportedly reduce the weight of molded parts without sacrificing strength or aesthetics.
3M recently introduced glass bubbles (S32HS) to help automotive OEMs achieve up to a 40% weight reduction of composite parts, at a density below 1 g/cc, while still enabling a class A paintable finish. As automotive manufacturers look to improve fuel economy and battery range for electrification, material lightweighting without compromising mechanical integrity is vital. Metals, although lightweight, can come with indirect processing and manufacturing costs, and may become even more expensive with the uncertainty surrounding global metal supply. Sheet-molded composites (SMCs) are a viable alternative to metals in certain applications, while still achieving the desired physical properties.
“With the trend toward electric and high-efficiency cars, reducing overall vehicle weight is key to staying competitive,” said Ray Eby, vice president of 3M Automotive Electrification. “A typical automobile has about 660 lbs of composite parts. With ultra-lightweight SMCs enabled by our glass bubbles, OEMs can significantly improve a vehicle’s energy usage, while saving money—one less bump in the road in the race to automotive electrification.”
For many years, 3M has partnered with the automotive industry to enable weight reductions for major automotive manufacturers. By replacing conventional fillers, these hollow glass microspheres can reportedly reduce the weight of molded parts without sacrificing strength or aesthetics. For the first time, 3M has been able to break the density barrier, making ultra-lightweight SMCs more competitive to steel and aluminum.
“Our customers continue to challenge us to lower the density and weight of fiberglass-reinforced material systems to support their automotive lightweighting efforts,” said Terrence O’Donovan, vice president of marketing and sales for Core Molding Technologies. “A density of 1.0 g/cc or below has long been a goal, while still enabling a Class A finish. Using 3M glass bubbles helps enable us to meet our customers’ expectations.”
Additional details are available at www.3M.com/SMC.