Converting existing metal products or parts to plastic
increases fuel efficiency because metal is far heavier than
plastic and, with proper design, engineered plastic parts
can be just as strong as metal and cost less. Plastics’
chemical resistance and heat resistance, combined with
their lighter weight, make them especially useful for fuel
systems, fluid handling systems and other under-the-hood,
With developments in materials and technologies,
plastics like polyether ether ketone (PEEK) are being used
for vehicle body components and an increasing number
of working parts (Figure 1). Some common applications
include piston rings in automatic transmissions and wear
plates in gear systems.
Other engineered plastics have dampening qualities that
absorb vibration better than metal, and can be formulated
to be thermally and electrically conductive. This makes them
ideal for use in heat sinks, electromagnetic interference
(EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) shields.
These are only a few of the applications we’ll cover in this
discussion about the benefits plastics bring to automotive
design and manufacturing.
Metal-To-Plastic Conversion a Plus for the
With appropriate design, plastic parts can perform as
well as metal in many automotive applications. For example,
plastic parts can achieve the same tight tolerances,
Until recently, most engineers who worked primarily with
metal parts were not familiar with the history or success of
reinforced plastics. Here are a few of the reasons why this
metal-centric perspective is rapidly fading from the scene.
Competition has become tough in the global automotive
marketplace and operations are squeezed to be lean.
Let’s say you are using a metal part. If a plastic part is
just as good as the metal part, if not better, why change to
plastic if there’s no compelling performance advantage?
The answer is because in addition to meeting specs for
durability, strength and style, injection- or insert-molded
plastic (Figure 2) improves product quality and reduces
costs in seven key areas:
1. Decreased piece part prices. After covering initial
tooling costs, plastic piece part pricing is usually much
lower than the same part produced in metal, whether it is
a stamped, cast, or a die-cast part, largely because the
injection molding process has faster cycle times (more parts
By Ken Glassen, VP of Engineering, Kaysun Corporation
Advanced Plastics Make Tomorrow’s
Vehicles More Efficient, Affordable,
Figure 1. Thanks to developments in materials and technologies, plastics like
polyether ketone (PEEK) are being used for parts such as vehicle bodies.
When engineering-grade resins were introduced in the 1950s, some auto
manufacturers were unfamiliar with the benefits
of metal-to-plastic conversion, i.e. how to design
plastics into products, and how to manufacture
with plastics. Today this practice, also known as
“lightweighting,” is becoming increasingly popular
with automakers as they race to comply with a
federal mandate calling for automobiles to average
54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
A look at how selecting the right plastic can reduce material and
manufacturing costs while improving durability.