By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Dearborn, Michigan -- Auto supplier Faurecia SA is developing a system to injection mould using natural fibres, potentially replacing existing compression moulded parts.
Faurecia's natural fibres for injection process -- NAFI -- uses in-line compounding to add fibres such as hemp or kenaf to polypropylene to reinforce parts in place of heavier glass.
The company, with global headquarters in Nanterre, France, already has validated door panels produced using the method, said Sébastian Kah, eco-design leaders for Faurecia Interior Systems, during the WardsAuto Interiors Conference on 17 May in Dearborn.
The company expects to complete validation of an instrument panel using natural fibre injection moulding later this year, he said.
Most natural fibre auto parts now in use are compression moulded and are not visible. A typical use now is for package trays at the rear of the passenger compartment or for door panel substrates. In both cases, they are covered with fabric or other trim.
Faurecia has developed concept interiors that show natural fibre composites, although carmakers could also opt to cover them just as they now cover traditional plastic substrates. Those parts could be produced using the NAFI process, Kah said, with natural fibres added to PP in the press.
During in-house development Faurecia has seen a 25 percent weight savings compared to parts using glass fibre reinforcement.
Faurecia would be able to use a variety of natural fibres, Kah said, using the best material from local sources. That would increase the flexibility for production in multiple global locations.