Automotive lightweighting campaign turns to natural fiber composites

Automotive parts and structures manufacturer Faurecia has announced the launch of its Light Attitude campaign, a company-wide effort to reduce weight and the carbon footprint of products it produces.

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Automotive parts and structures manufacturer Faurecia (Nanterre, France) has launched its Light Attitude campaign, a company-wide effort to reduce weight and the carbon footprint of the company’s four primary product types: vehicle seats, interior systems, front-end systems and exhaust systems.

Rob Huber, VP marketing and design at Faurecia, says composites do and will have a major role to play in the company’s lightweighting efforts. In particular, he reports that the company is re-evaluating the “stack-up” of materials in various applications, looking for opportunities to take material out of product. Faurecia also is looking at increasing use of natural fibers in “show” surfaces and is evaluating staining, screening, laser-etching and other technologies to make such parts aesthetically pleasing. “Were taking it from a raw natural material to a more finished material,” says Huber, noting that Faurecia sees significant potential in seating. Working with resin supplier BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany), the company has developed a composite seatback frame wherein the frame is “show” surface (photo). The seatback is manufactured via injection molding, but with a continuous fiber mesh embedded in the tool, around which is injected a BASF thermoplastic. Huber says this design allows Faurecia to eliminate traditional foam construction and focus more on designing a seat that conforms more comfortably to the human body.

Huber says Faurecia is targeting a 20 percent across-the-board weight reduction in its products, and he thinks that goal is within reach. Look for more information on this Faurecia/BASF injection molding process in a future issue of CT.