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What is the importance of different types of plastics for the safety system in cars? 

15 May 2022

What is the importance of different types of plastics for the safety system in cars? 

Manufacturers of the first automobiles paid little attention to safety, but over time it became necessary to use car structures and parts to protect travelers from the consequences of an accident. Today, components made of modern plastics, such as injection molded car parts and specialized EPP foam, play a major role in modern car safety systems. They provide driving safety in many ways. 

How have car safety systems evolved? 

Pole tekstoweToday, no one can imagine a car without controlled crumple zones, side reinforcements, three-point seat belts, child seats or airbags anymore. However, if you look at the early days of automobiles, no one paid much attention to safety requirements, as back in the 19th century there were few cars on the streets, and they reached low speeds anyway. The automotive industry has undergone many revolutionary changes since then, as a result of which it has become necessary to develop advanced active and passive safety systems in cars that will protect passengers and the driver even in the event of a high-speed collision. The parts aim to cushion the force of the impact, prevent fractures during a sudden jerk and reduce the risk of falling out of the car. Today, the production of automotive parts responsible for safety has already been completely dominated by plastics, as they provide durability, molding flexibility and versatility. 

Why have plastic parts for cars conquered the automotive industry?  

Plastics have replaced metal, glass, felt or natural leather in many applications because they offer greater customization, are much lighter and recyclable. For example, automotive parts produced in Poland at a plant near Wroclaw can be molded into any shape, are characterized by low weight with high mechanical strength, and offer many other properties, such as sound and thermal insulation. An interesting example of the evolution of safety systems in automobiles, for example, can be the car bumper, which is part of the external safety systems. The materials used in bumpers over the decades have been determined by the development of cars that have become much faster and lighter, as well as the discovery of different types of plastics with improved properties. 

A car bumper that ensures the safety of the car – what material is used to make it? 

The car bumpers in use today are completely unlike their predecessors. Initially, they were simple strips of steel, while the 1960s saw the emergence of more robust, chrome-plated metal bumpers. The first plastic car bumpers as we know them today were not developed until the early 1970s, and they quickly gained recognition because they absorbed the energy of an impact without being permanently deformed. A car bumper consists of three components: a metal reinforcing beam, a surrounding foamed plastic shock absorber and an outer plastic cover. Foamed polypropylene is used for the infill. This material is excellent at absorbing shocks, does not break into pieces and when the force acting on it stops, it returns to its previous shape. The outer cover, on the other hand, is usually made of thermoplastics, such as polypropylene or polycarbonate. Bumpers are just one of many examples of plastic components for a car responsible for safety. 

Read more: Safe bumper – what should it be made of?

What is the safety significance of injection molded automotive parts? 

Thermoplastics such as polypropylene, polycarbonate, ABS and polyamide are by far the most widely used in automotive safety systems. In addition to bumper covers, they are also used to manufacture grilles, door panels, reinforcing pillar parts and even car body parts. Injection-molded car parts produced at our plant near Wroclaw are characterized by high precision even in the case of very small elements, such as all kinds of fasteners or end caps. At the same time, they are highly resistant to damage and atmospheric conditions, thanks to which they contribute not only to the protection of passengers and the driver, but also the car's components, thus extending its life. Despite their low weight, they make it possible to additionally stiffen and secure individual body components, while mountings and brackets made of such materials effectively prevent any structural elements from detaching. 

What are the functions of foamed polypropylene for car safety? 

EPP foamed polypropylene, used in both exterior and interior car components, is increasingly used in passive security systems. It is not only resilient, so it is not permanently deformed, but also extremely lightweight. The method of manufacturing car parts from this material, which is air molding, allows free shaping of a number of their parameters, such as geometry, density, thermal properties, acoustic properties, mechanical resistance or even color. EPP car headrest fillings provide comfort and protection of the cervical vertebrae from damage. Car seat cores, on the other hand, provide body stabilization and can absorb any shock. 

Foam fillings for the cockpit and dashboard reduce injuries during a crash, while door panels absorb the force of side impacts. In addition, EPP foams are used to make floor or ceiling fillings, which also reduce the risk of severe injuries, for example during a rollover and further strengthen the roof and floor structure. 

Of course, the long list of applications of plastic car parts does not end with the above examples. For more information on various injection molded plastic and foamed EPP parts, visit: knaufautomotive.com

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