HARMONIZING TECHNOLOGIES WITH MAN AND NATURE
The unfolding story of vehicle interiors is being written on instrument panels, across center stacks, inside glove boxes, even along trunk floors. And Faurecia Interior Systems is punctuating each chapter of this change with less weight and more surprises. For the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Faurecia is removing conventional materials, switches and preconceptions, replacing them with new applications of electronics, new approaches to natural fibers and new perspectives on the way that interiors should perform.
NAFILean from Automotive Performance Materials (APM)
Since its introduction to the market in the 2013 Peugeot 308, Faurecia’s NAFILean (Natural Fiber for Lean Injection Design) has brought sustainable design to instrument panels, center consoles and door panels. Its contributions to the industry have been recognized with a 2014 Innovation award in the Green category from the European Automotive Association (CLEPA).
The NAFILean process introduces natural fibers to the injection-molding process, producing lighter-weight, high-performance materials.
NAFILean not only can be shaped into complex forms and architectures, but it also reduces the weight of injected parts by up to 25 percent compared with standard injection-molded plastic parts and provides a 40 percent better fit and finish.
Faurecia is partnering with Interval, an agricultural cooperative in France, through a joint venture called Automotive Performance Materials (APM) to create a hemp-based product that is the only injected material employing natural fibers. Interval harvests and de-fibrates hemp to supply it to Automotive Performance Materials, which transforms and mixes the product with a thermoplastic resin to create NAFILean. Faurecia and other automotive equipment suppliers can use the raw materials to make automotive parts. APM production in France is already underway, and the business is set to expand to the North American market in 2016, with plans to produce locally in Asia by 2018.
APM also will soon begin industrial production of BioMat, a 100 percent bio-sourced plastic that uses fibers and natural resins obtained from biomass, developed in partnership with Mitsubishi Chemical.
Automakers in North America today are relying on natural-fiber-based compounds from APM to make vehicles lighter and improve their sustainability. The industry has validated the end-of-life recyclability of NAFILean, encompassing it in its standard processes for regenerating and treating plastics. NAFILean serves to harmonize injection molding with the demands of environmental responsibility.
Three New Approaches to the Cross-Car Beam
Faurecia Interior Systems is making a major interior structural component lighter without sacrificing strength and performance. The instrument panel cross-car beam on most vehicles is constructed of metal and requires a large number of welds. As a result, these beams are relatively heavy. Aluminum or magnesium can replace steel to remove weight, but these are expensive materials for massproduction vehicles.
Faurecia is approaching the cross-beam challenge from three directions that are driven by a less-is-more attitude.
First, Faurecia is applying cold metal transfer (CMT) welding techniques to the cross-car beam as a means of saving weight through a reduced wall thickness. CMT, not yet a standard in the automotive industry, is especially effective in joining dissimilar materials, such as steel and aluminum as it allows better control of the welding process and transfers less energy in the corresponding parts.
Second, Faurecia is creating a lighter-weight hybrid cross-car beam that combines steel with glass-fiber-filled thermoplastics for less weight, noise, vibration and harshness while meeting the toughest safety standards at an affordable cost. The hybrid cross-car beam is available to automakers now for new programs.
Simultaneously, Faurecia is developing a composite cross-car beam, fabricated from nylons, carbon fibers and/or glass fibers. This beam can offer the highest weight saving potential and weighs less than 8 pounds, compared to nearly 14 pounds for the already weight optimized metal cross-car beam in CMT welding technology, a weight reduction of 43 percent.
The full-composite cross-car beam from Faurecia is planned for mass-produced models beginning in 2020. Faurecia features an intermediate version of the composite beam during NAIAS 2015.
The 2015 Mustang Interior: Three New Technologies
Displayed at the Faurecia NAIAS 2015 exhibit, the 2015 Ford Mustang offers three technologies that will be evident in the new generation of interiors that are lighter, more customized and more comfortable.
DECOSTITCH offers an economical alternative to traditional cut-and-sewstyle instrument panels. With standard cut-and-sew techniques, two pieces of material are sewn together with a decorative stitch. DecoStitch produces a decorative stitch without sewing separate pieces of material together.
The process begins with a full TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) skin and seam produced through an in-mold graining (IMG) process. A decorative stitch is added, producing a cut-and-sew appearance at an affordable cost.
THE ACTIVE GLOVE BOX is an innovation Faurecia is launching with Ford Motor Company. This glove box, designed by Ford and produced by Faurecia for the 2015 Mustang, replaces the traditional below-the-instrument-panel knee-impact airbag. It consists of an injection-molded bolster with an integrated bladder that expands to help protect the passenger during a crash. Instead of incorporating a fabric airbag, the Active Glove Box integrates the bladder into the glove box door’s inner and outer panels.
The result is a smaller, lighter package that provides more interior space for improved comfort. The design reduces manufacturing component costs and decreases vehicle mass for better fuel efficiency. Additionally, its travel distance is less than that of a traditional airbag because it is already in position when it expands from the instrument panel.
Ford and Faurecia won the Society of Plastics Engineers Innovation Award and the overall Grand Award for the Active Glove Box in November 2014.
In addition, a Faurecia instrument panel utilizing a Bio-Foam technology based on Ford’s castor oil based foam brings sustainability into the foam-in-place technology, while continuing to meet the highest levels of durability and fit and finish in the final assembled product.
Universal Docking Station
Faurecia has completely re-envisioned the docking station, expanding its functionality beyond that of a simple “holder” for mobile devices to become a harmonizing hub for communications, power and customized control of the vehicle environment.
Faurecia’s Universal Docking Station will hold any type of device, from a very small smartphone to an 8-inch tablet that becomes a hub for navigation and communication. Its ergonomic design allows driver or passenger to dock their device with just one hand. Once in the dock, devices are charged wirelessly and automatically and can be locked in place to prevent occupant injury in case of a collision.
The Universal Docking Station enables smartphones to take advantage of their near-field communications (NFC) capabilities. Faurecia anticipates that, in the future, the dock will support NFC functions that customize the interior of the vehicle by changing the light colors and levels. A driver will place his or her smartphone in the docking station and automatically the vehicle will adjust seats, lighting colors and other comfort applications.
The Faurecia concept anticipates incorporating a Bluetooth antenna and radio controls into the docking station, with faceplate switches to select channels and adjust volume. Speakers will be integrated into the dock, and the radio becomes part of the docking station. Bluetooth connectivity will allow for audio streaming through the docking station as well.
In these ways, the Universal Docking Station becomes a platform for integrating automated communications and entertainment functions.
Ligneos Trunk Floor
Even the trunk floor can become more luxurious with Faurecia innovations. A rear podium – including a full premium trunk floor covered with Ligneos – provides a new perspective on harmonizing every aspect of the vehicle with nature and efficiency.
The Ligneos real-wood product developed by Faurecia can be applied over large areas of vehicle interiors for a beautiful high-end appearance with a lightweight, fuel-saving material.
For the trunk floor, Faurecia has created a 3-D shape in a large surface with a real-wood layer 0.55 mm thick. A number of different wood aspect combinations are available, and Ligneos is fully compatible with honeycomb/composite and green fiber technology, reducing weight by 20 to 30 percent. The Ligneos trunk floor can be carpeted on the opposite side and easily flipped over to accommodate loads that are sharp or heavy, then reversed to the Ligneos side for everyday use. Ligneos has undergone abrasion testing that verifies its appropriateness for use in truck beds and trunks exposed to outdoor conditions.
Environmentally friendly Ligneos from Faurecia is available in 40 different woods in matte, gloss and textured finishes.
CoMo Glove Box
What could be more in harmony with the lightest aspects of nature than origami? That is the technique that Faurecia is using to fashion glove boxes from sustainable materials. This process, called co-molding or CoMo, provides substantial savings on logistics for suppliers.
CoMo uses Faurecia’s NFPP (Natural Fiber Polypropylene) one-step compression technology, rather than injection molding, to create the glove box bin. NFPP material—composed of 50 percent natural fibers—and a thin fabric cover stock are pressed together to form a flat sheet with lines where it can be folded. Then, as in creating an origami swan or, more familiarly, a pizza box, the material is folded and welded to form a bin that weighs 30 percent less than plastic injection-molded bins.
Equally important from a cost standpoint, CoMo reduces logistics expenses by as much as 80 percent. Glove boxes often are sent to specialized companies to have flocking added to their interiors, and frequently these shops are not close to the OEM assembly plant. Injection-molded bins have considerable empty volume and consume a lot of space on the truck. CoMo bins, however, lie in flat sheets. The difference in packing density between the two types of bins is a 7:1 ratio.
CoMo enables suppliers to cover and mold the glove box bin so it has the same feel as an injection-molded part, then ship it flat to a just-in-time assembly location, where it is installed in the instrument panel. Further, Faurecia’s CoMo allows use of multiple cover stock materials without needing additional tooling. Faurecia simply changes out the fabric to different colors, surfaces and thicknesses; it all can be done in the same tool for a wide range of trim levels.
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé
Faurecia’s contributions to the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coupé harmonize brilliantly with the vehicle’s luxurious details, sustainability and lightweight design to lessen weight while furnishing more comfort and beauty.
A genuine leather instrument panel is fabricated with Faurecia’s patented “PrePo” technology for unparalleled precision and repeatability in positioning the cut-and-sew skin and decorative topstitching. The IP also features the latest generation of Faurecia’s seamless airbag technology, with a cover that blends smoothly into the rest of the instrument panel skin.
The door panel carrier is made with Faurecia LignoLite, a wood-fiber substrate comprising 60 percent renewable materials that cuts the carrier’s weight by 25 percent compared to its predecessor.
MicroJect technology from Faurecia has been used to produce the center console with microcellular foamed material that provides increased stiffness at a lower density and weight.
S-Class comfort and convenience are advanced by two innovations from Faurecia. First is a center console armrest that opens both toward the driver and toward the passenger side. As an option, the armrest may be heated. Additionally, the Faurecia glove box is equipped with ambient lighting and a fragrance diffuser.
The “Less Is More” Demonstrator
The Faurecia NAIAS 2015 exhibit features its “Less Is More” demonstrator that displays many advanced systems and concepts offered by Faurecia product groups. From Faurecia Interior Systems, the demonstrator includes the composite cross-car beam and NAFILean-based instrument panel and door panel, as well as two other new systems.
FIBERGLASS COMPOSITE FLOOR
Also included in the demonstrator is a front and rear passenger floor and trunk floor made of a composite thermoplastic material reinforced with glass fiber. Faurecia uses a thermostamping technique to produce the floor, which provides exceptional mechanical performance and meets all crash-test requirements, while increasing recyclability.
The floor is lighter and costs less compared with bonding and is able to withstand the very high temperatures attained during the cataphoresis painting process. The floor includes acoustic components in the space between its upper and lower layers to muffle noise.
The complete floor structure is more than 36 pounds lighter than a conventional steel floor, a reduced weight that cuts CO2 emissions by 1.65 g/km, or about 1 g/mile. In the Renault EOLAB concept vehicle, the thermoplastic/glass-fiber floor achieved the automaker’s goal of a 33 percent weight savings.
The fiberglass composite floor may enter production in the next four or five years.
LIGHTWEIGHT WINDOW LIFTER
The “Less Is More” demonstrator also exhibits the Faurecia lightweight window lifter. Most window-lifter systems are mounted on two steel rails, an affordable but somewhat heavy design. Additionally, speaker housings are positioned on the door lining, and more metal components support the door handle.
Faurecia has significantly lightened and simplified this complex of hardware with a one-piece module formed by injection-molding to incorporate the rails, housings and door handle. While it is lighter because it eliminates many metal components, it also uses fewer parts. That means assembly is easier.
The Faurecia integrated lightweight window-lifter module can cut more than 7.5 pounds from the total weight of a five-door vehicle. This Faurecia innovation will begin appearing on vehicles released in 2016.
Faurecia has further refined its popular “Collections” exhibit of theme-based colors, trims and materials that can be used to create unique personalities for vehicles. Adopting trends and fashions from regions around the world, Faurecia Interior Systems has created a palette of colors, textures and patterns, applying them to a variety of fabrics, ceramics and metals for fresh, fashionable packages that can be offered at any trim level.
These palettes work across the products offered by Faurecia Interior Systems and Faurecia Automotive Seating to harmonize the full interior of a vehicle and to coordinate with the current color palettes of automakers.