This morning, during the first day of NPE 2018, 3M announced the launch of Glass Bubbles S32HS, an additive for Sheet Molded Composites (SMC) with Class A paintable surfaces. According to 3M, the new product can help OEMs achieve up to a 40 percent weight reduction of composite parts, at a density below 1.0 g/cc.

As automotive manufacturers look to improve fuel economy and battery range for electrification, material lightweighting without compromising mechanical integrity is vital. Metals, although lightweight, can come with indirect processing and manufacturing costs and may become even more expensive with the uncertainty surrounding global metal supply. SMCs are a viable alternative to metals in certain applications, while still achieving the desired physical properties. 3M says its glass bubbles are an established lightweighting technology used in enabling lightweight sealants, injection molded parts and SMCs.

“With the trend toward electric and high efficiency cars, reducing overall vehicle weight is key to staying competitive,” said Ray Eby, vice president of 3M Automotive Electrification. “A typical automobile has about 660 lbs. of composite parts. With ultra lightweight SMCs enabled by our glass bubbles, OEMs can significantly improve a vehicle’s energy usage, while saving money– one less bump in the road in the race to automotive electrification.”

For many years, 3M has partnered with the automotive industry to enable weight reductions for major automotive manufacturers. By replacing conventional fillers, these hollow glass microspheres can reduce the weight of molded parts without sacrificing strength or aesthetics. For the first time, 3M has been able to break the density barrier, making ultra lightweight SMCs more competitive to steel and aluminum, opening up new possibilities for the material mix in automotive applications.

“Our customers continue to challenge us to lower the density and weight of fiberglass reinforced material systems to support their automotive lightweighting efforts,” said Terrence O’Donovan, vice president, marketing and sales for Core Molding Technologies. “A density of 1.0g/cc or below has long been a goal, while still enabling a Class A finish. Using 3M Glass Bubbles helps enable us to meet our customers’ expectations.”

For more information, visit 3M’s Glass Bubbles S32HS product specs.