By Rhoda Miel, Plastics News Staff
Detroit-Automakers have seen the light in recent years with car designs that replace metal roofs with large glass panels.
Now auto supplier Johnson Controls Inc. wants automakers to recognise the change in design by changing the way the industry makes the headliners that make up the interior ceiling of cars, trucks and minivans.
Traditionally, suppliers like the Plymouth, Michigan-based auto unit of JCI compression mould headliners that fit the entire overhead area of a vehicle. Such headliners are often complex composites, with a layer of polyurethane foam in the construction. When automakers put them in vehicles with a large piece of glass overhead, though, they end up cutting out and throwing away a large portion of that part.
The glass composite typically ends up in a landfill, said Beda Bolzenius, president of JCI's interiors unit, during a 7 Jan press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
JCI created the Clear Solution Overhead System concept as a way to show automakers how the company can turn out a headliner that doesn't waste materials and also improves production.
"It's going to be lighter, it's going to mean less waste," said Dave Phillips, executive director of interiors business development. "Because we're only creating what's needed, we're going to be able to use smaller, less expensive tools, we can use smaller presses. It's lower cost all around."
JCI has shown new overhead concepts before. Its Overhead Perimeter System, first shown in 2006, would have replaced the compression moulded structure with an injection-moulded frame and decorative trim. The new system builds on that proposal by crating a series of modules for the core of the headliner, then makes it easier to design the entire system with glass roof panels in mind.
JCI could conceivably use the same material for up to three different vehicles, saving even more money, Phillips said. "It's a design concept as well as a manufacturing concept," he said.
The supplier does not have any takers yet for the proposal, but is introducing it to carmakers."