MIDLAND, Mich.—When it comes to lightweighting, Dow Inc. isn't pulling any punches.
The Midland-based company's Engage 11000 thermoplastic polyolefin elastomers are stretching the capabilities and applications of TPOs, offering auto makers and suppliers more versatile materials for vehicle design and function, particularly in the area of lightweighting.
But don't just take the company's word for it.
Dow's advancements with its Engage technology earned it one of R&D World Magazine's prestigious R&D 100 Awards, making it one of five Dow technologies to garner the accolades this year.
For Mark Jablonka, Dow's transportation application technology leader, it was affirmation that he and his team are pushing innovation further and offering OEMs and suppliers more diverse capabilities.
"The R&D 100 Award and the development of the novel elastomer is something that I am really proud of," Jablonka said. "This is a great achievement for Dow."
Engage polyolefin elastomers create tougher, more durable TPOs, while reducing the coefficient of linear thermal expansion, Jablonka said. As a result, application of the material is extended, particularly to the body of the vehicle.
In terms of functionality, the ability to replace traditionally heavy metal body panels with much more lightweight TPO panels allows for more fuel-efficient vehicles. And as the industry transitions to electrification, that weight loss becomes more important, offsetting the weight of the heavy battery packs and extending the vehicle's range.
Jablonka also noted that the molding versatility of TPOs make them an ideal material for auto makers because they eliminate the need to weld brackets and fixture attachments, which are common with steel and metal parts. This saves on weight, time and money, Jablonka said.