Front and rear plastic bumpers protect and save lives. They have evolved into complex, beautiful, engineered components. Today’s plastic auto bumpers and fascia (front) systems increase design freedom. Plastic engineers can mold the elegant “look” of the vehicle.
Thermoplastic olefins (TPOs), polycarbonates, polyesters, polypropylene, polyurethanes, polyamides are the primary resins used. Engineers style plastics for functional purposes in many ways. Plastic bumpers contain reinforcements that allow them to be as impact-resistant as possible.
Some of these plastic products are recyclable. This enables the manufacturer to not only reduce their environmental footprint and reuse scrap material in a cost-effective manner. Today post-industrial recycled TPO performs like virgin resins in many respects. This can potentially rescue millions of pounds of plastics from landfills. And, this reduces material costs during production.
The 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia features a front bumper design with a computer-controlled active air splitter. During braking or cornering, the front splitter opens to provide a downforce of 220 lb/100 kg for improved handling. The combined system helps the vehicle achieve a low aerodynamic drag coefficient of 0.32. It supports styling with impact and scratch resistance at lower mass and cost.
The 2011 Fiat Panda added a rear hybrid plastics/steel bumper structure. This structure adds crash-resistance to the chassis while reducing vehicle weight. During impact, crushable plastic honeycombs sequentially collapse absorbing crash energy.