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Today, automotive manufacturers are looking to use lightweight materials without compromising the mechanical components. Now, sheet molded composites (SMCs) can be used as an alternative for expensive metals in certain circumstances. 3M introduced Glass Bubbles S32HS to help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) achieve up to 40 percent less weight of composite parts, with a density below 1.0 g/cc. The sheet-molded composites are viable alternatives to metals used in parts such as body panels, pickup boxes, roof components and structural components.

“With the trend toward electric and high efficiency cars, reducing overall vehicle weight is key to staying competitive,” said Ray Eby, vice president of 3M Automotive Electrification, according to Business Wire. “A typical automobile has about 660 lbs. of composite parts. With ultra lightweight SMCs enabled by our glass bubbles, OEMs can significantly improve a vehicle’s energy usage, while saving money– one less bump in the road in the race to automotive electrification.”

This concept replaces conventional fillers with hollow glass microspheres that can reduce the weight of molded parts without foregoing the aesthetics. By making ultra lightweight SMCs more competitive to steel and aluminum, they have created new possibilities for material combinations in automotive manufacturing.

3M’s Glass Bubbles use lightweight technology that help with lightweight sealants, injecting molded parts and SMCs. The Glass Bubbles have been successful in automotive and recreational vehicles, and are becoming more attractive to automotive OEMs.

Currently, because Glass Bubbles are an additive to sheet molded composite, the temperature and humidity it can withstand varies depending on formulation and material handling.

“Our customers continue to challenge us to lower the density and weight of fiberglass reinforced material systems to support their automotive lightweighting efforts,” said Terrence O’Donovan, vice president, marketing and sales for Core Molding Technologies. “A density of 1.0 g/cc or below has long been a goal, while still enabling a Class A finish. Using 3M Glass Bubbles helps enable us to meet our customers’ expectations.”

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