Plastics and Side-impact
One of the most devastating types of traffic accidents is the side-impact crash. Unlike front-end or rear-end collisions, there is not a lot of space between the passenger compartment and the point of impact—this means there is not much time for safety restraints to function successfully. To make matters worse, these incidents can happen at high speeds, leaving unsuspecting passengers particularly vulnerable to injury.
Thankfully, much like they have done in the built environment, plastic materials have helped bring automotive design into the 21st century For some cars, manufacturers are inserting lightweight polyurethane foam plastic into the hollow unibody door frame between the front and back seats. These plastic foam materials can serve as localized reinforcement to help manage crash energy, and can provide the added benefit of offering acoustical management capacities. Additionally, the light plastic foam material does not add much weight, helping keep the car efficient.
Other energy absorption (EA) plastic products include integrated knee bolsters, pillar trim, structural instrument panel systems, and further plastic foam technologies and molded plastic components enabled by polypropylene, polyurethane, and engineered plastic resins. For example, structural adhesives help stiffen areas of the vehicle and can add overall durability by reducing connection fatigue and failure of traditional fasteners.
In some cars, a two-part polyurethane foam plastic is injected into body cavities (e.g. longitudinal rails, cowl/plenum area, between the passenger cabin and the engine) during vehicle assembly, where it cures almost immediately, providing an acoustical seal and near-immediate reinforcement of the body structure. Since the expanding plastic foam has fluid-like properties, it flows into seams and crevices, helping provide adhesion to metal surfaces, and keeping the plastic foam material in its designated location.
The polyurethane foam plastic’s performance can help automakers meet full frontal barrier and offset crash regulations. It is just one more use for a modern plastic material that has already demonstrated its versatility in the building and construction industry.
For more information, visit www.plastics-car.com.