The color of automotive interiors can now be radically changed thanks to a value chain collaboration involving ExxonMobil, Clariant and Plastivaloire Group (PVL). A new vibrant color spectrum for lightweight polypropylene (PP) interior car parts has been introduced, and highlighted at K 2019, which will allow the automotive value chain to meet the interior design needs of consumers using next generation vehicles.
“As the automotive industry adapts and moves towards radical changes offered by alternative powertrains, autonomy, and ridesharing, what the consumer sees, touches and feels inside the vehicle is expected to change,” said Bhaskar Venkatraman, ExxonMobil vice president, Polypropylene, Vistamaxx and Adhesion. “Without the distraction of driving, passengers will give more attention to interior aesthetics and look to express their own style and individuality by personalizing their vehicle. As a result, vehicle interiors are expected to fundamentally change in the coming years, as consumers will no longer need to focus on driving.”
Most interior car parts are currently made from durable, safe and recyclable polypropylene because of its high impact strength and easy processability. Up to now the color choice has been limited to traditional dark/black and neutral colors. Recognizing an opportunity to meet evolving automotive market needs, a collaboration between ExxonMobil, Clariant and PVL was established with the aim of providing designers with a more exciting color spectrum for vehicle interiors combined with the proven performance of polypropylene.
ExxonMobil is developing new lightweight Exxtral™ performance polyolefin grades that can easily be colored using masterbatches at the press. Collaboration with Clariant, a leader in additives and color masterbatches for plastics, and PVL, a renowned part manufacturer and specialist in decoration and design, led to the creation of the new color case. The color case displays 23 vivid plaques of different vibrant colors, inspiring automotive designers and customers to create infinite possibilities to enhance interior aesthetics to meet consumer needs.
With a 10% lower density than a commercial PP compound used for door panels, the “Exxtral BMU046x concept” grade can reduce part weight to help improve fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. It can also maintain impact resistance at low temperatures and improve significantly the scratch resistance, a key element for durability, in addition to UV resistance and non-tackiness. Thinner parts are also possible with more than double the melt flow rate (MFR) and an almost 50 percent increase in flexural modulus compared to a commercial neat door panel grade, while delivering improved odor performance. Additionally, thanks to its high MFR and low filler content, it can easily be injected and colored at the press to offer high-quality aesthetics for strong consumer appeal.
The vibrant color palette and masterbatch approach developed by Clariant allows production flexibility. Transitioning from one natural color PP resin to many different colors is easy. One large volume of a natural grade and small stocks of color concentrates are required to produce parts in many different colors.
The new Exxtral grades are simple to use on most injection molding machines with a weight feeder. Color diffusion is extremely good with 2-4 percent masterbatch. Using the masterbatch approach allows unlimited creativity for automotive designers with a spectrum of color options and opportunities for special effects like metallic or glitter colors.
Plastivaloire Group has worked on new harmony panels with vibrant custom colors to deliver an exciting polypropylene spectrum for car interiors. Its design department developed a warm color spectrum inspired by natural materials like leather, copper, cork or wood, and from architecture. There is also a cold color spectrum inspired by fashion and interior design. All these efforts provide OEMs with a real opportunity to make their parts “pop” with tailored accent colors and effects.
“The trend for increasingly colorful vehicles has already started with vehicle exteriors. Cars with vivid colors, like bright orange, lush green and vivid pink can be seen parked right alongside more traditional greys, whites, reds and black,” said Venkatraman. “Radical changes to vehicle interiors, however, have not quite made that transition, until now. By looking to the future, the collaboration has developed a solution that enables the automotive value chain to meet the interior design requirements of consumers using the next generation of vehicles. With parts that provide performance, weight saving and a “pop” of color, expect to see some radical new vehicle interior designs very soon.”
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