Plastic composite structures can help lightweight vehicles while preserving safety features. During a vehicle crash, engineers want the structure to crush in a gradual, predictable way. Automotive materials should absorb, not transfer, the “impact energy” to humans. The industry calls this a “controlled crush.”
Fiber-reinforced polymer composites have been found to absorb four times the crush energy of steel. The B-pillar is the support post that connects a vehicle’s roof to its body at the rear of the front occupant door that provides the major source of resistance to occupancy compartment intrusion during a side-impact collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently funded a study to evaluate a composite intensive B-pillar design for vehicle crash safety and weight savings. This study demonstrated that the carbon fiber thermoplastic B-pillar offered 60 percent weight savings over the metallic baseline and satisfied the side-impact crash requirements. Also, the dynamic impact and crush response of the B-pillar was successfully modeled using computational tools.
The Society of Plastics Engineers cites the 2018 Ford Expedition for an energy absorbing collapsible glove box. The new design collapses during impact to help prevent severe femur loads and adaptable to other vehicle lines to reduce high femur load and assist 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 through a flexible pedestrian-protection crash direct-mounted sensor bracket injection molded in plastic.
Download Crumple Zone Resource