There is a double benefit to using plastic in this way. For one thing, weight reduction of up to 30 percent – and even 50 percent in many cases – can be achieved. But functional benefits can also be gained at the same time: “Plastic allows us to achieve much more complex geometries,” says Bendl. “Thanks to the additional options afforded by injection molding, we can use plastic components to keep the number of individual parts as low as possible.” For instance, a plastic oil intake module has been successfully developed as a single component – replacing four individual parts. The aspect of production is taken into account as soon as such components are developed. Bendl and his colleagues benefit from the in-house expertise of development partner Hummel, the company that produces the injection molding tools. “These functional advantages add to the weight-reduction benefits, making our lightweight solutions attractive from an overall costing perspective,” says Bendl.
A new area now being addressed by lightweight construction experts is vehicle bodywork. Here developers are focusing on cockpit cross-car beams and front-end carriers made out of polymer-metal hybrids. “We use hydro-formed hybrid technologies to make these structural components,” says Reinhard Müller, Head
of Elastomer Technology and Modules. “This is a brand new system currently not offered by any other supplier. For us, it is the perfect foray into lightweight bodywork, as we can not only achieve weight-reduction benefits of 20 to 30 percent but also produce these components at very competitive rates.”