CLEVELAND—The automotive industry is rapidly evolving, which means new compounds are required to help it get there.
DuPont's Transportation & Industrial unit is ready, offering new solutions to help auto makers enhance vehicle performance. While new technologies driven by megatrends can be exciting, they also bring new challenges for the industry.
"It brings a whole new advent of problems," John Huber, market development manager, said at the recent International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland. "As new things get developed, there are new challenges. When engines were really noisy, you didn't hear anything. But now that they're getting quieter, you hear the turbo or a whoosh from a particular duct. They want ways to knock that noise down."
One such compound DuPont showed off at the event was its Vamac-branded ethylene acrylic elastomer, which is used in a variety of automotive applications, including hoses, dampers, seals, boots and gaskets. Huber said it is durable, flexible and resistant to both heat and automotive lubricants.
Another advantage Vamac brings is that it doesn't leach out volatiles that could foul or corrode electronic components. According to Huber, this is an advantage compared to silicone. The compound also helps auto makers reduce noise, something that's becoming critical in electric vehicles with silent engines.
"As cars become quieter and more electrified, when you don't have a lot of noise you hear everything," Huber said. "Noise, vibration and harshness is a big deal, and the properties of Vamac dampens noise very well. What's happening is we're looking for alternative ideas and concepts to take Vamac and put it in to noise dampening situations. That I believe is the next drive for the automotive industry."
The other trend driving development at DuPont is bonding to different substrates. Shawn Armstrong, a lead account manager with the firm, said that as metals are being replaced with other materials—graphene or in some cases plastics—it requires new, tougher adhesives. DuPont's Megum, Thixon and Robond-brand adhesives each can be specifically formulated to the various bonding requirements of substrates and conditions.
Steve Fecanin, senior development program manager, discussed the firm's lightweighting efforts through multi-material bonded chemistries. The technology combines its Zytel and Thixon-brand adhesives with rubber or other elastomer combinations to replace metal components in anti-vibration applications such as engine and gearbox mounts, torque rods, link arm bushings and engine support brackets.
Finally, the firm is one year into its AHEAD initiative—which stand for Accelerating Hybrid-Electric Autonomous Driving. The firm combined portfolios across its organization to deliver solutions for the hybrid and electric vehicle market.
The firm opened an innovation hub in California—the Silicon Valley Technology Center—which DuPont said also serves as a hub for applications support, rapid prototyping, testing and iterative design.
"We're trying to balance the investment, the research and the people," Huber said. "We want to be there when the big change does happen."