Automotive Composite Materials

Expanding the use of thermoset composites in the automotive industry

The use of composite materials in the automotive industry has increased in recent years. The use continues to grow and Mar-Bal, a leader in thermoset compound products, meets the sophisticated requirements of this highly-engineered industry. With use on exterior and interior vehicle parts, thermoset compounds offer lighter weight, durability, and a host of benefits to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Mar-Bal relies on its proven commitment to quality, accuracy, and timeliness to produce the compounds and components this changing industry needs today and tomorrow.

The Environmental Protection Agency took a strong stand in 2012 when it mandated that the U.S. auto fleet average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This legislation was designed to lessen reliance on foreign oil and reduce auto emissions. Automotive scientists and engineers knew they would have to find new ways to lighten the weight of automobiles without sacrificing strength and structural integrity. One way to accomplish this challenge was to utilize thermoset components where steel had traditionally been used in vehicles.

Engineered for Heavy-Duty Use

Automobiles require reliable, synchronized mechanisms with parts that can withstand friction, corrosion, and temperature fluctuations. Inaccuracies in design or production will impact performance and can represent loss of business for the manufacturer. In addition to safety issues, if performance failure results in recalls and higher maintenance costs for owners, the manufacturer faces profit loss and brand disloyalty. At the same time, as noted above, this industry must meet increasingly stringent federal regulations.

When compared to steel, the capabilities of composite materials provide the ability to meet and surpass automotive industry demands. These unique features include:

  • A low coefficient of thermal expansion for heat conduction
  • Excellent dimensional stability for shape retention and reliability
  • Resistance to corrosion for performance in wet and dry conditions
  • High-impact strength to withstand repeated use
  • Relatively low weight to reduce overall vehicle mass
  • Sound baffling for quieter performance
  • Receptiveness to paint, including the ability to meet Class A surface requirements and the paint and bake process
  • Ease of manufacturing for a relatively lower cost

Interior and Exterior Applications

OEMs rely on Mar-Bal’s automotive composite materials for parts that perform. Thermoset compounds are widely used for a range of automotive parts, from headlamp housings for forward-facing headlamps, to beneath-the-hood electrical and heat-shielding components, to exterior body parts and interior structural and cosmetic components. More specifically, thermoset composites are used in parts including:

  • Air deflectors and spoilers
  • Air-intake manifolds
  • Battery casings and covers
  • Bumpers and bumper beams
  • Cylinder head (e.g. valve, rocker, cam) covers
  • Frames for windows/sunroofs
  • Front-end grill opening panels
  • Headlamp housings for forward-facing headlamps
  • Heat shields (e.g. engine, transmission)
  • Pillars and coverings

Mar-Bal’s history of accuracy and reliability is built on innovating thermoset composite components engineered, produced, and delivered to the specifics of every job.

A Bright Future for “The Freedom Machine”

First dubbed “The Freedom Machine” at the 1964 World’s Fair, automobiles continue to define Americans’ love of mobility and personal expression. Experts don’t expect that enthusiasm to dwindle and manufacturers agree that the future is bright.

The onset of digitalization, tighter regulations, and the push for automakers to redesign vehicles that encompass changing technology, increase safety, and result in less strain on already aging infrastructures of roads and highways, is the future.

The properties that make automotive compound materials attractive today are likely to increase as reliance on performance will always remain a top need in the industry. As lighter weight vehicles with digital abilities take the population, the use of thermoset components will be at the ready. Mar-Bal’s advancements in compound technology and materials will serve the automotive industry as it has for decades.

Mar-Bal works with customers to perfect the engineering and production to produce the parts that make cars operate efficiently and safely while incorporating designs that attract a new generation of drivers. If your needs include customized thermoset solutions for the automotive industry, Mar-Bal can help.