Glass is not the designer’s only option to glaze an opening. Lightweight materials may find exciting opportunities in the automotive industry as a means of increasing fuel efficiency. With 75% of fuel consumption relating directly to vehicle weight, potential weight reductions that result in improved price-performance ratio promote use of lightweight materials. One of the key plastics used in automotive sector is polycarbonate (PC). PC has dominated the market for vehicle headlamp covers for 15 years, and now it challenges glass in windows. Plastics are lightweight materials ideal to improve fuel efficiency and design flexibility without compromising on performance or safety.
The automotive industry can expect an impressive 6-8% improvement in fuel usage with only 10% reduction in vehicle weight. This translates into a reduction of around 20 kg of CO2 per kilogram of weight reduction over the vehicle's lifetime. With newer advances in plastics materials, the weight of these parts is bound to reduce. Lighter vehicles facilitate easier braking, reduced collision impact overall vehicle performance and superior driving experience.
What is polycarbonate?
Polycarbonates are a particular group of thermoplastics. They are easily worked, molded, and thermoformed; as such, these plastics are very widely used in modern manufacturing. They are called polycarbonates because they are polymers having functional groups linked together by carbonate groups in a long molecular chain.
Polycarbonate is a very durable material, and can be laminated to make bullet-resistant "glass". This polymer is highly transparent to visible light and has better light transmission characteristics than many kinds of glass. The primary advantages of polycarbonates in automotive glazing are lowered weight and associated CO2 emissions reductions along with greater styling freedom and simpler functional integration. The wide choice of styling options with polycarbonates is testing conventional assumptions of automotive window design and creating whole new opportunities for advanced vehicle styling.
Polycarbonate is becoming more common in industry. It is often used to create protective features, for example in banks as well as vandal-proof windows and lighting lenses for many buildings. Other products made from polycarbonate include sunglass/eyeglass lenses, compact discs, DVDs, and automotive headlamp lenses.
PC auto glazing permits parts integration previously not possible.