Increasing the Use of Plastics and Polymer Composites in the Automotive Industry

Client: American Chemistry Council
Volkswagen VW XL1 concept car Facilitating the roadmapping workshop Central graphic for roadmap Cover of roadmap

Project Overview

Nexight worked with the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to develop the Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets, which provides the plastics and polymer composites industry with an actionable plan for gaining recognition for their materials by the automotive industry and society as preferred materials solutions by 2030.

Need

For decades, advanced plastics and polymer composites have helped improve the appearance, functionality, and safety of automobiles while also reducing vehicle weight, increasing design flexibility, and delivering superior value to customers. New regulations, shifts in consumer preferences, and recent technology innovations are encouraging automakers to continue increasing the use of advanced plastics and polymer composites to meet tomorrow’s challenges and needs. To effectively capture this opportunity, ACC needed to update its previous roadmap (published in 2009) to reflect the changing trends and major technology developments that have altered the landscape for the use of plastics and polymer composites in automotive markets.

Our Solution

We facilitated a two-day workshop in Troy, Michigan that brought together technical experts and other stakeholders from a broad cross-section of the automotive industry, including original equipment manufacturers, tier suppliers, materials developers, researchers, and consultants. Prior to the workshop, we conducted a literature review and a series of expert interviews to inform the workshop’s scope and focus. At the workshop, we divided participants into three breakout sessions (interior and exterior, powertrain and chassis, and body-in-white) to enable more detailed discussions about specific automotive systems that ultimately identified priorities and defined a path forward for increasing the use of plastics in automotive markets through 2030. We synthesized the results of the workshop into a 60-page roadmap that outlines a multi-pronged approach, focusing on industry-wide demonstration projects as well as collaborative R&D in the areas of material selection and part design, manufacturing and assembly, and continued materials development. To guide the reader through this strategy, we developed an overarching graphic that demonstrates how these activities will work together to help automakers incorporate plastics and polymer composites into vehicles sooner and more effectively.

Impact

Published in March 2014, the roadmap was launched at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ 2014 World Congress & Exhibition and is now publicly available online. It recently won a Distinguished Technical Communication award from the Society for Technical Communication for serving as an “outstanding example of technical communication principles.”

Products

Plastics and Polymer Composites Technology Roadmap for Automotive Markets (Distinguished Award, Society for Technical Communication, D.C. Chapter Technical Publication Competition 2013-2014; Excellence Award, Society for Technical Communication 2014 International Summit Awards Competition)

Relevant Technical Expertise

Materials and Manufacturing Innovation