Compiled ByDeborah Austin With slower growth predicted for engineering plastics in the automotive industry, resin suppliers, OEMs, and processors must find ways to drive development of new applications. The key will be to keep introducing innovative products and technologies that address car producers' concerns -- weight reduction, fuel economy, lower costs, comfort, and safety -- says a new study from strategic market consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, San Jose. Credible alternatives to traditional materials -- such as metal and glass -- will help create new opportunities, the study says. The fastest-growing uses of plastics: in electrical and lighting systems, and under the bonnet. The study forecasts that from 2000 to 2007 the amount of engineering plastic used in passenger cars will increase at a 2.6% compound annual rate -- lower than the 6% yearly growth in the previous four years. Some notable examples of new technologies being developed to create opportunities for plastics in the automotive market include:
GE Plastics' Noryl products offer better heat resistance and conductivity. Bayer AG's hybrid technology -- binding plastics and steel - lowers weight and module costs and creates a high load-bearing capacity that will allow high energy absorption. Exatec's automotive glazing systems -- based on polycarbonate - are thought to offer 40% weight savings compared with glass.