1. Important characteristics required for materials in Automotive Engineering Polymers have been used in the automotive industry for many decades. It is regarded as an efficient material as it is very durable and could significantly reduce production costs. However, as technology advances, new polymers are found and better alternatives are paved for the automotive industry. The vehicles we see today are very different than that of the yesteryears. This proves how far the automotive industry has advanced through technology. This eventually improved the built quality of vehicles in terms of safety, comfort, and performance.
Plastics have greatly contributed to the advancement of the automotive industry. Although some may perceive that plastics yield a poorer built quality (though in some cases, it may be true), it actually is a better alternative in an engineer’s point of view. The reason why we have a contrast of opinions regarding the use of plastics is because of the type of plastics being used. Therefore, the characteristics of the material are a very important factor in achieving good built quality. The automotive industry is constantly looking for alternatives to keep the production costs low.
In order to achieve that, the engineers adapted to the use of plastics on certain parts. The question was – was this a good idea? Over the years, it became evident that it really is. Hence, we see modern cars with plastic bumpers, plastic door handles, plastic mirror housing, etc. The engineers had to bear in mind that what they require is a durable and robust plastic material. They had to consider something that is able to deform upon minor collisions, and be able to return back to its original shape (reversibly deformable). The benefit of this idea is so that vehicle owners do not have to change the bumper for minor accidents.
However, plastics have a limit to their reversible-deformation property. It could tolerate impacts of up to a certain degree, but beyond that, it would be a permanent deformation. But then again, it is a lot better than to repair a bumper made of metal isn’t it? Thus, the bumpers are made of materials that are able to withstand light and medium impacts. Considering the fact that plastic parts are relatively lighter than metal or wooden parts, this would improve a vehicle’s performance, which will eventually make the machine more efficient.
As of today, plastic parts are known to be the most effective material that could save weight and yet be strong and durable. Cost has always been a challenge in the automotive industry. For many years, engineers have been working on alternative materials. A good example is the use of wood for certain parts like the steering. It would certainly be cheaper than steel, but come to think about the time taken to craft a circular shape out of wood, it would in the long run cost more than the latter.
Thus today, we find polymers used to replace these parts because it is in fact a lot cheaper and a lot easier to build. Some car owners of the 50’s and 60’s experienced this little problem when they park their cars out in the sun. They would return to their car and grab their stainless steel door handle and “ooh!! ”. Yes, it is a very good heat conductor. Very obviously, replacing a stainless steel door handle or gear knob or steering wheel with a plastic material is a brilliant idea. But the problem is whether or not it is able to withstand the heat.
Many first perceived plastic products to be inferior to high temperatures. However, technology proved them wrong. We have cars today with many plastic exterior parts that are able to withstand heat for years. It is indeed very important to analyze the feasibility of the use of a different material which has not been tested before. Many considerations are taken so that the parts used are well suited for its intended purpose. Plastics have proved to be a great alternative in automotive engineering, paving a bright path towards the future.
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