No, not the 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles staring Steve Martin and John Candy. The market segments of Planes, Trains and Automobiles are seeing a great deal of activity in the molding circles. Once, conversion to plastics was a money saver, toys are the perfect example. While all of our small cars like Matchbox were metal back in the day, now they are largely plastic. Now, metal to plastic conversion is about cost AND weight, with weight advantages offering newfound excitement around fuel efficiency.
In aviation, the need to lighten the load has always been a factor. Up until the most recent designs, resins were not up to the task and they made more powerful engines. With some precursor work, the advent of the Boeing 787 and its 50% composite make-up goal highlighted the advances made in composites. Injection molders like PlastiCert, familiar with the intricacies of the high temp resins like PEEK, Ultem, Ryton and others, were able to offer metal to plastic conversion assistance that helped Tier 1 & 2 suppliers meet that 50% goal.
In the train market, while train commuting is common in parts of the US, expansions elsewhere in the US and foreign markets necessitated designers lightening the load to help with fuel savings. Numerous components within the cars as well as suspension and braking have evolved to take advantage of composites.
Lastly, in automobiles, decades of working to make engines more efficient and cars smaller started in the 70’s with that fuel crisis (remember the Pinto and the Chevette). The engine has continued to evolve but there were heat and endurance limitations on the materials required. While auto interiors have increasingly used plastics for years, new advances in composites have opened up opportunities in the transmission, drive train and even the engine compartment.
So if you feel hemmed in by traditional material choices for your product, take a hint from the Big 3 transportation modes. Metal to plastic conversion is not just for toys any longer. Look for suppliers with experience in Ultem, PEEK and Ryton composites, utilizing glass or carbon fiber. They will be able to help you lighten your design load and your product’s end weight!
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