Bert Havenith studied Physics at the Technical University in Eindhoven, Netherlands and completed an MBA at the University of Maastricht. In 2001 he was appointed general product manager within the Marketing Department of DSM Engineering Plastics. Then, in 2007 he headed the new Automotive Application Development department of DSM and now acts now as business & innovation manager automotive for DSM.
What challenges is the automotive industry facing?
It’s twofold. The first major driver in manufacturing is legislation. In the U.S., fuel consumption needs to be reduced and in Europe it’s the emissions that have to be reduced. But in the end, both are related. Now, can the automotive industry cope with these pressures? I believe so. What you see them trying to do is get the engine and transmission much more efficient. They’re work on downsizing the engine and reducing the weight of any part in the automobile. They’re also trying to reduce friction around tires, the engine and transmission to save fuel. They are developing hybrid or electric cars or adding more electric components to the car. In the end, all these efforts are aimed at reducing fuel consumption and emissions. The other driver is that automotive companies expect to pay more and more taxes on the carbon or “eco” footprint of their cars in the future. That’s a driver for building cars with more recycle-based materials, including bio-based plastics.
What are specific solutions the automotive industry is working on to reduce fuel consumptions and emissions?
Apart from friction reduction and electrification, it’s all about weight reduction. The main emphasis is on weight reduction, and that’s where plastics can play a big role. However, if metal-to-plastic conversion doesn’t also bring a cost advantage, the automotive industry won’t switch to alternative plastic solutions. You have to deliver both: the weight reduction and the cost reduction. Very often we can prove that the plastic solution is up to 20 percent cheaper but it depends on the exact design of the part and whether you can integrate functions into the component.
Where is there potential for FRP in automotive?
There are a lot of different materials for UTB applications and special exterior parts being developed at the moment, and a lot of different production technologies being used , all aimed at replacing metal with plastic for the car body and some structural parts. And yes, people are looking to FRP and CFRP thermosets and thermoplastic solutions.