Cars are large, heavy pieces of equipment. You probably think they are mostly made of metal, and they are. However, although autos were made mostly with steel in the beginning, over the past few decades they have included more and more plastic. Here are some of the reasons that plastic is being used in the manufacture of most kinds of vehicles.
A company’s bottom line can be a big motivator that drives innovation. In order to stay in business, a company needs to have more money coming in than goes out. Car manufacturers are moving to custom machining as a way to lower the amount of time it takes to assemble a vehicle. If a part can be injection molded rather than assembled from numerous other parts, it can save time. Time is money for most businesses, so finding ways to cut down on time is important.
Plastic is often less costly than steel, so it makes sense to make the switch where it doesn’t negatively impact the safety of the vehicle.
The ability to change designs is greatly enhanced through the use of plastics. The amount of time it takes to create prototypes is reduced, which means that upgrades can begin to be manufactured much more quickly than in the past.
A design change may be for functionality, such as the new plastic films that are more durable than paint. The film holds its shine and is scratch resistant. Other designs can enhance the ability of a vehicle to use a hybrid or alternate fuel. When a vehicle is created with lightweight materials, it is usually more fuel efficient than a heavier auto.
While you might think that a steel bumper would be better in a collision than a plastic one, you would be wrong. Actually, the plastic used today is about 4 times more impact-resistant than other materials. At the same time, it weighs about half as much. Other safety features that use plastic include airbags, seat belts and even car seats that are designed to be used by infants and toddlers.
Many of the lights and indicators on the dashboard are enhanced with plastic and fiberoptics or LEDs. Many newer cars include indicator lights when the vehicle gets too close to another car on either side of it.
As you can see, there are a number of good reasons why vehicle manufacturers have made the switch to plastic for many of the components in modern automobiles.