Ford have taken inspiration from the Aero chocolate bar to produce lighter plastics, as part of their quest to reduce weight and emissions.
when it comes to metals, there are many ways to reduce weight, such as changing the type or grade which can help shed kilos from the total weight. Traditionally however, plastics have been a difficult area to reduce weight without sacrificing strength durability or function. The new MuCell technology works by introducing gas bubbles into the plastic as it is moulded, leaving a microscopic honeycomb structure. These tiny spaces save weight by reducing the amount of plastic required, without compromising the integrity of the part.
Weight is an important factor to consider as reducing the overall mass of a vehicle results in improvements to fuel economy and carbon emissions.
MuCell also means the manufacturing plant benefits, as lower pressures are used to mould the plastic and up to 33 per cent more parts per hour than the conventional process. The increase reduces energy consumption, manufacturing emissions and cost for parts produced using the new technique. Ford's MuCell technology expert Carsten Starke is excited by the potential of the new process: "The first time I saw this plastic under the microscope I thought to myself it looks like an Aero chocolate bar!The bubbles in the chocolate change the taste, but in our plastics they save weight and making cars lighter reduces emissions and fuel consumption significantly," he said.
"We are saving weight in many ways, not just by using this new plastic, because lighter cars handle better, accelerate faster and stop more quickly. For the customer it is win-win, the plastic is 20 per cent lighter without increasing cost or reducing strength and it will help make their Ford better in almost every aspect."
The MuCell technology will first be used in engine covers on vehicles such as the Ford Focus, C-MAX and Grand C-MAX, S-MAX, Mondeo and Galaxy over the next few years. Ford has committed to a minimum of 100kg weight reduction from even its smallest cars and 300kg from larger cars by 2020 as part of environmental initiatives. Weight saving, including deploying MuCell technology, is also achieved from other materials such as high-strength Boron steels which are used extensively in Ford models.Published 4 April 2011