Plastic composite structures can help lightweight vehicles while preserving safety features. When a vehicle crashes, engineers want the structure to crush in a predictable way. Automotive materials should absorb, not transfer, the “impact energy” to humans. The industry calls this a “controlled crush.”
Fiber-reinforced polymer composites absorb four times the crush energy of steel. The B-pillar is the support post that connects a vehicle’s roof to its body. It is at the rear of the front door and provides the major source of resistance to intrusion during a collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently funded a study on B-pillars. The study looked specifically at a composite intensive carbon fiber thermoplastic B-pillar design. The goal was to determine the design’s weight savings and vehicle crash safety as compared to a metallic baseline. The B-pillar showed 60 percent weight savings, and satisfied side-impact crash requirements. Computational tools modeled the dynamic impact and crush response B-pillars.
The Society of Plastics Engineers cites the 2018 Ford Expedition for a collapsible glove box. The new, energy-absorbing design collapses during impact to help prevent severe femur (legs and shin) loads. Also, it is adaptable to other vehicle lines and assisted in achieving a 5-star crash rating. (Another example is this addition to front seat safety.)
Plastics are helping save lives during pedestrian impacts too. Polycarbonate-blend bumpers help protect passengers in collisions. Plastics also enable faster deployment for greater pedestrian protection in Ford vehicles. A flexible pedestrian-protection crash direct-mounted sensor bracket injection molded in plastic. See more in our “Crumple Zone Blog” and our tour of the BMW i3 Carbon Fiber Chassis Safety Components.
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