At long last, primary suspension springs made from thermoplastic composite materials make their way into the world of automobiles. Motor Speedway Resort recently hosted an SCCA Majors event which showcased a purpose-built vehicle highlighting the use of high density materials in automobiles. Branded as a 1987 Honda CRX, the vehicle has become the first automobile to use reinforced thermoplastic composite materials as its primary suspension springs.
“We strongly believe that reinforced thermoplastics offer an excellent opportunity in automotive light weighting applications”, says the president of Poly strand Inc., Ed Pilpel, citing their cost effectiveness and speed of processing. The car featured a reinforced PP front splitter as well as hybrid interior sandwich panels created by bonding stainless steel and aluminum. The splitter played the role of an aerodynamic support.
The upper control arms and springs used in the independent radar suspension system were created using nylon 6 and were reinforced with PPG Industries TufROV 4510 continuous e-glass. The springs themselves were compression molded using a tape made from high gravity compounds at the Birmingham School of Engineering, University of Alabama.
“We experience several teething problems in this first outing, chasing minor electrical and braking problems during the event that prevented us from finishing the races”, said Pipel. However, the automobile managed to maintain its second-place spot while it was in competition thanks to an exceptional suspension system, which was further tested on the rough race track. Reports also suggest that the vehicle maintained great traction at high speed and offered excellent handling balance as well.
Despite a few shortcomings (expected in the teething stage), the success enjoyed by the 1987 Honda CRX augurs well for the automobile industry. It goes on to show the importance of high density compounds and thermoplastic composite materials in the world of automobiles and simply proves how indispensable these materials are to the growth and development of the industry as a whole.
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