better together story - Bekaert Annual Report 2010

better together story

better together story

Composite and steel cord go better together in strong bumpers

For several years now, suppliers to the automotive industry have been facing a number of challenges. Increased safety requirements, weight reduction, freedom of design, cost reduction and eco-friendliness all are factors that determine the success of an automotive part.

Thanks to the integration of Bekaert steel cord fabric, voestalpine Polynorm Plastics Solutions could reestablish its position in the market of crash resistant components for the automotive industry.

Major industrial challenges

Industry safety standards have become increasingly stringent over the past years. Polynorm experienced this first hand when the latest impact tests caused the traditional Glass Mat Reinforced Thermoplastic (GMT) composite used in its bumper beams to break. In order to keep playing a part in the structural automotive parts market the company had to make its GMT material crash-resistant. They started scanning the market for partners who could assist them in bringing about this ‘breakthrough’ innovation.

When composite and steel cord meet…

After discovering Bekaert at the K2001 trade fair, Polynorm selected us as their development partner. Why Bekaert? The Product Development manager of Polynorm was already familiar with the possibilities of using steel cord in the reinforcement of oil exploration pipes. He knew we were the only company with the know-how to make the fabric Polynorm was looking for.

From left to right: Dries Moors (Bekaert), Veerle Van Wassenhove (Bekaert) and Kees van Koert (voestalpine Polynorm Plastics Solutions).



The birth of a unique steel cord based composite

The new steel cord reinforced GMT that originated from the co-development project was labeled EASI, an acronym for its key properties: Energy Absorption, Safety and Integrity.

It is a unique product in the market, as it combines the advantages of composites (freedom of design and weight reduction) and those of metal solutions (high stiffness and top performance in crash tests).

As for the environmental impact, weight has been reduced by up to 30% compared to traditional steel bumper beams. In addition, EASI material is easily grinded for recycling purposes. The steel parts can be magnetically removed and the composite recycled through traditional means. And a life cycle analysis performed by the University of Lausanne acknowledged the ‘green’ advantages of the material combination as compared to other bumper systems.


A first series introduction

The co-developed EASI material received the 2008 Innovations Award from the German Federation of Reinforced Plastics (AVK). In 2009 Polynorm began marketing EASI GMT material, which in turn led to the first series integration of rear bumper beams for a new exclusive type of sports car, which was launched in March 2010.

Since the bumper for this model was not a standard design, the challenge was to process it with a minimum of handling in order to cut costs while not having to compromise on design. To do this in aluminum was simply not economically viable. EASI offered a cost-friendly alternative as it was possible to integrate all functions of the bumper (such as sensors, license plate and cables) in one molding step. This freedom of design, combined with the weight advantage and the crash performance, proved the right solution.

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