The automotive industry is one of the major industries known for using polyurethane components, and it’s easy to understand why. Polyurethane is among the select materials that is economical to produce, lightweight, and durable enough to withstand the extreme forces that often present during driving. Polyurethane’s popularity in the industry has only grown with time, and it is now beginning to replace metal alloys and fiberglass in a number of settings, including some that might surprise drivers. For example, polyurethane is now the primary material used in many bumper and car body models, dispelling the notion that adequate protection can only come from heavy, inefficient materials.
What are some of the applications of polyurethane in the automotive industry?
Polyurethane can be found everywhere in the design and manufacturing of vehicles. Thermosetting polymers are uniquely capable of mitigating the punishing physical forces and temperature swings that vehicles are often subjected to. This makes them an invaluable choice for car makers. Some of the most common applications of polyurethane in vehicle construction include:
- Providing an alternative to rubber bushings, which have a tendency to wear through before long. Bushings provide a contacting layer between two surfaces engaged in a rotor connection, and they have to be extremely durable and offer little friction. Polyurethane is highly resistant to abrasive forces and can be molded with smooth surfaces that produce little friction. For these reasons, polyurethane bushings located in engines and transmissions are longer lived than their rubber counterparts.
- Providing the padding for interior seating. Polyurethane can be used in a foam format that no other material can match. Polyurethane foam is found in several industries and is prized for its insulating and shock absorbing qualities. It is this latter property that makes polyurethane ideal for the automotive industry, as seats filled with polyurethane foam retain their shape and comfort even when used for years and years.
- Offering a sturdy alternative to metal alloys and fiberglass. This is particularly notable in bumpers and bodies. Metal is susceptible to dents and dings, while fiberglass does not hold up well when impacted suddenly. Polyurethane doesn’t suffer from either of these concerns, and with its superior flexibility, it can take severe forces while retaining its integrity and protecting vehicle occupants. In short, it’s much more difficult to damage polyurethane, and it’s lightweight enough to not affect performance.
- Providing a superior option in windshield coatings. Windshields and windows glazed with polyurethane strengthen the glass and offer extra resistance to scratches and cracks. Polyurethane coatings even repel fog to an extent, improving visibility.
The automotive industry is always pushing the boundaries when it comes to stressing materials to their limit. Polyurethane has proven to be game for the challenge, though, which is why manufacturers are increasing the material’s role in vehicle construction.