As governments around the world implement stricter regulations to reduce emissions and promote sustainable transportation solutions, automakers are compelled to explore lightweight materials like thermoset composites to meet these requirements. From reducing vehicle mass and boosting driving performance, to allowing design freedom through more flexible materials, composites help designers build high-performing products more efficiently. Additionally, these composites are often more cost effective and easier to manufacture alternatives than traditional materials.

Exceptional durability is key for automotive components so producers often rely on sheet molding compounds (SMCs). SMCs are ready-to-mold, glass-reinforced polyester materials used in compression molding processes to achieve special characteristics. The prominence of SMCs in the automotive industry surged in the 1970s as automakers sought lightweight alternatives to traditional metals for body panels. Over time, ongoing advancements in material formulations and manufacturing processes have broadened SMC usage, making it a popular choice for numerous automotive components, including body panels, bumpers, structural parts and even truck beds.

The shift toward SMC technology in automobiles

The use of composites in the automotive industry is driven by several factors.

  • Weight reduction: One of the most critical advantages of composites is their lightweight nature. By incorporating composite materials into vehicle design, automakers can reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. Lighter vehicles tend to be more fuel-efficient and emit fewer greenhouse gases, contributing to better fuel economy and reduced environmental impact.
  • Performance improvement: Composites provide excellent mechanical properties, such as high strength and stiffness, enabling them to enhance the performance and safety of automotive components. This includes improving crash resistance, impact absorption and overall durability.
  • Design flexibility: Composites can be molded into complex shapes, offering automotive designers more freedom in creating innovative and aerodynamic vehicle designs. This flexibility allows for improved aesthetics and better integration of functional features.
  • Corrosion resistance: Composites are generally resistant to corrosion and rust, providing longer lifespan and reduced maintenance requirements for automotive components, particularly in extreme temperatures.

Helping customers win with UV stable technologies

Ultraviolet (UV) stability is crucial in automotive applications because constant exposure to sunlight can cause unprotected composites to degrade and lose their structural integrity over time. Within months of outdoor exposure, chalking can occur, fiberglass becomes exposed, and the part becomes visually and structurally damaged.

Through years of investment and research into UV stabilization science and decades of experience in composites, Vibrantz created UVSolutions® technology to provide maximum UV protection, resin system specification, pigment chemistry and color space. UVSolutions provides the industry’s best weathering performance in fiber-reinforced plastics and has gained prominence in composite applications for truck beds and tailgates.

 “Our goal is to help our customers win in the market. UVSolutions enhance our customers’ SMC technologies and enable them to replace traditional metal materials on vehicle exteriors.”

Chris Reding, Sales Director, Color Solutions, Americas

Vibrantz UVSolutions technology, along with other raw materials, enables customers to win in the automotive market where composite technologies were traditionally overlooked. The trend of UV-stable composite technology in automobiles is driven by the automotive industry’s desire to reduce weight and improve fuel performance. As advancements in material science and manufacturing processes continue, we can expect to see more widespread adoption of UV-stable composites in various automotive applications.

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Ben Arnold

Ben Arnold, Commercial Manager, Color Solutions

Ben Arnold

Ben Arnold, Commercial Manager, Color Solutions

Ben Arnold leads the plastics commercial team in North America. In this role, he manages the commercial activities for colorant and pigment technologies for the plastics, composites and building and construction markets. Prior to Vibrantz, Arnold was business director at Chromaflo Technologies specializing in sales and technical service for the thermoset business in the Americas. In his 20 years with Chromaflo Technologies, Arnold also held various business Development, sales and technical roles.

Arnold received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from The College of Wooster and a Master of Business Administration from John Carroll University.