Ford Resin Cuts Costs, CO2 Emissions

Ford and supplier partner BASF have developed a new resin used in interior plastic parts that eliminates the need for a clear-coast finish.

Byron Pope, Associate Editor

January 22, 2013

3 Min Read
rsquo13 Ford Fusion interior incorporates new plastic resin application
’13 Ford Fusion interior incorporates new plastic resin application.

In an ongoing effort to shave costs and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, Ford is beginning to replace glossy molded-plastic interior parts with components made of a new resin that doesn’t require application of a clear-coat finish.

Developed with supplier BASF, the resin is being employed initially on the power window switch surround of the ’13 Ford Fusion.

Not only does the resin make parts more affordable by eliminating the traditional clear-coast finish, it also cuts down on transportation costs.

Similar parts for the previous-generation Fusion were molded at a facility in Kalamazoo, MI, and shipped to Grand Rapids, MI, for clear-coating. The components then were trucked back to Kalamazoo for packaging before being forwarded to Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant for final assembly.

Ford says the round trip between Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids runs 128 miles (206 km) and takes roughly 18 gallons (68 L) of diesel fuel to complete.

Shipments are made three times a week, requiring 54 gallons (204 L) of fuel. Presuming 50 weeks per year of production, the auto maker saves 2,700 gallons (10,220 L) of diesel and eliminates 59,400 lbs. (26,943 kg) of CO2 from Fusion production annually.

“This improved resin saves Ford significant dollars, but it also helps eliminate volatile organic compounds from being released into the atmosphere,” says Robert Bedard-body interior core engineer. “And we save 50% of the cost of these parts alone.”

The new resin also reduces the high scrappage rates associated with clear-coat application.

Bedard says adding the coating didn’t always result in a high-quality surface, and because the part couldn’t be repainted, it had to be scrapped.

The new resin, known as polyamide 66, went through rigorous testing before earning application in the Fusion.

“Typically there are failure modes we struggle with in interior panels, and it’s exacerbated when you want to put high-gloss finish on the parts,” Bedard tells WardsAuto. “A mirror finish will show everything. We knew we had to find a way at a chemical level to make the parts resilient.”

To perfect the resin formula, plastic plaques coated with different formulations were subjected to various durability tests meant to mimic real-world use.

“We came up with a test that used a fast-food napkin, something customers have in the glove box (to wipe up spills),” he says. “Napkins are not a friendly material for a high-polish surface, so we developed a circular test to mimic how people would polish or rub the surface and did that over the course of the development of the resin.”

With ’13 Fusions now in customer hands, Bedard says Ford is actively seeking feedback from customers and dealers to determine whether the parts are holding up.

Plans are to use the resin in other Ford vehicles and for parts other than the window-switch molding, he says, declining to reveal specifics.

“There’s no geometry of size or shape we can’t do, it’s just a matter of how we blend it into the theme or style of the interior,” Bedard says. “Right now Fusion is the only (vehicle), but we’re very interested in pursuing other applications.”

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About the Author(s)

Byron Pope

Associate Editor, WardsAuto

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