PVC About to Resurge in Vehicle Interiors

PVC meets the -35°C airbag deployment criteria

PVC use is about to resurge in vehicle interiors. Improved skin formulations meet the -35°C airbag deployment criteria thus, removing the barrier for PVC use in seamless airbag door applications. Some recent moves from other chemistries such as polyurethane and TPO to PVC include: Volkswagen Tiguan, Range Rover vehicles, Audi A1, Passat and the Ford Focus. The following drivers will contribute to the further growth of PVC:

  • The continued growth in the Chinese automotive sector
  •  New PVC dry powder molding line investments in China for producing skins with exceptional quality with roughly two minute cycle times
  •  Cost/performance balance of PVC compounds
  •  Trends toward wrapped interiors on a global basis
  •  Reduction in PVC skin weight and strides toward making the skin green

A Surface Trend

In-mold graining vacuum forming processes (IMG) will provide another platform for growth. This approach has provided TPO technologies a boost as well. Generally speaking, North American manufacturing of interior skins is a combination of cast/foam-in-place, Europe is mainly foam-in-place and Japan is thermoformed foam laminate. In North America, it is cheaper to do the cast/foam-in-place approach than a thermoformed laminate due to the supplier capabilities and capital expenditure situation. The general trend should be toward eliminating the foaming process and move toward laminated or integral foam/skin constructions. However, in the IMG process, in order to avoid thinning and provide a good feel and appearance, for stitching, a minimum thickness of about 1 mm is required around the styling lines and edges. With the IMG process, this means the initial stock needs to be about 20 percent thicker to begin with. Increased weight and cost issues come into play. In China, for the short term, most instrument panels are foam-in-place instrument panels.

A summary of skin technologies and where they are positioned from a cost and performance standpoint are provided below. This chart is constructed from ITB’s many years of experience and credible field work in the automotive interior area.

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