Ford turns to chocolate bar to develop lighter plastic components
By Darren Quick
April 8, 2011
We've seen the world's first Formula 3 car running on a fuel derived from waste chocolate, and now engineers at Ford have turned to the tasty treat for inspiration to produce lighter plastic parts for Ford's vehicles. Plastic parts have traditionally been a difficult area to save weight without sacrificing strength and durability, but by looking to the Aero chocolate bar they have produced a lighter plastic by introducing gas bubbles into the plastic as it is molded. The result is a microscopic honeycomb structure that Ford says saves weight by reducing the amount of plastic used without compromising the integrity of the part.
Dubbed MuCell, the technology also offers speed and efficiency benefits in the manufacturing process, with lower pressures used to mold the plastic and up to 33 percent more parts produced per hour in comparison to the conventional process. This results in a reduction in energy consumption, manufacturing emissions and cost for the parts produced.
"We are saving weight in many ways, not just by using this new plastic, because lighter cars handle better, accelerate faster and stop more quickly. For the customer it is win-win, the plastic is 20 per cent lighter without increasing cost or reducing strength and it will help make their Ford better in almost every aspect," said Ford's MuCell technology expert, Carsten Starke.
Ford says the MuCell technology will make its first appearance in engine covers on vehicles such as the Focus, C-MAX, Grand C-MAX, S-MAX, Mondeo and Galaxy in the next few years. The company has committed to a minimum of 100kg weight reduction from even its smallest cars and 300kg from larger cars by 2020 to help cut emissions and fuel use.