A center console from the BMW group has been awarded the 15th SPE Automotive Division Award for 2013. The design incorporates BASF’s Neopolen particle foam as a weight-saving measure.
BMW Group is reportedly the world’s first car maker to use polypropylene foam as a visible contour material on a center console. Neopolen P foam has contributed to a weight reduction of around 30% compared to the previous product used.
Moulding technology specially developed for the application eliminated steps from the original process – BASF claims that production now consists of “a single step”. Use of Neopolen also allows additional functions to be integrated into the center console. For example, the foam moulding process can allow for ventilation channels for the air-conditioning system, serving the rear of the car’s interior.
The process begins by laying a thermoplastic substrate into the mould, filling its cavity with foam beads, and using steam pressure to weld these two elements into a moulded part.
During the same step, movable bars place smooth sheeting on the moulded part and firmly bond it with the material. At the same time, the bars’ grain structure and the heat from the steam lend the sheeting its textural characteristics. BMW Group will reportedly be using the lightweight structural element in its cars in the future. At first, the company will select specific models for the component to feature on in series production.
Neopolen P has very good noise insulation properties, low weight, and high thermal resistance. The particle foam combines high energy absorption – even after multiple impact loads – with good resilience and isotropic deformation performance. Its property profile, which also includes low moisture absorption and good resistance to chemicals, lends itself to a range of applications in sectors from packaging and transportation to sport and leisure.