vor 2 Jahren

issue 03/2021

Highlights: Bottles / Blow Moulding Joining Bioplastics Basics: Carbon Capture

Applications By: Jesse

Applications By: Jesse Henry Chief Executive Officer Heartland Industries Detroit, Michigan Hemp to save weight Lightweighting throughout the automotive supply chain Anything that is manufactured in the mobility sector can benefit from something called lightweighting. Cars, boats, and planes all see performance benefits when the total weight of the vehicle is reduced. Think of anything that has an engine, wheels, or is propelled forward, and you will quickly understand why lightweighting is a trend that’s not going away. Reducing the weight of the vehicle unlocks capabilities that were previously impossible. The physics of lightweighting means that a reduction in the vehicle’s weight creates an increase in acceleration, fuel efficiency, and payload capacity. There are many other secondary benefits to lighter vehicles including stopping distance, stopping force, and carbon emissions. Lightweighting is not just a short-lived trend; it will continue to be a key performance indicator for decades to come. There are two main questions that should be considered when thinking about lightweighting: • What raw materials can I use? • What other opportunities can be created from lightweighting in other parts of the supply chain? Raw Materials The three primary materials in the automobiles we use today are steel, aluminum, and plastic. It is no secret that reinforced plastic is leading the lightweighting revolution to replace parts that have previously been made from metal. This means that today’s lightweighting competition has become focused on creating the lightest weight plastic. But most of the resins that are being used in the automotive industry have been standardized for decades. Since each plastic has a specific bulk density, one of the best possible ways to reduce the weight of the material is to change out the fillers / reinforcing fibers or to use special additives, such as foaming agents. The fillers / fibers inside the plastic can account for 10–60 % of the weight of the total plastic. This is where sustainable materials can add immediate impact to the plastics that are already used every day. The American industrial hemp raw material supplier, Heartland Industries, has jumped on the opportunity to help the automotive industry hit its lightweighting goals. The company’s main objective is to help manufacturers make stronger, lighter, cheaper, and more sustainable parts by using industrial hemp as an additive to plastic. They are using the two main parts of the plant, the hemp fibers and hemp hurds, to replace volume fillers and reinforcement agents that are commonly used in the plastics industry. • Hemp fibers replace commonly used reinforcements like glass fiber and carbon fiber • Hemp hurds replace commonly used volume fillers like talc and calcium carbonate. Most of the additives used in today’s plastics are made from mineral or synthetic materials. Heartland’s team sees sustainable materials replacing the (sometimes) toxic fillers that have been standardized across the plastics industry for generations. Industrial hemp is a carbon-negative material, which means that every kilogram of hemp sequesters at least 1.62 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This means that, at scale, Heartland will be removing over 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every day. As Heartland builds and replicates their supply chains of carbon-negative materials, they are looking to become the most sustainable company on the planet. The European automotive industry has been using natural fibers in its cars for decades. This is because, unlike America, Europe benefits from multiple reliable natural fiber supply chains. 46 bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/21] Vol. 16

Applications Hemp Interior door trim made of a biocomposite of hemp fibres and polyethylene (Photo: nova-Institute, CC BY-SA 3.0) As the American market leader, Heartland is building the first reliable industrial hemp supply chain to provide hemp additives that can be used in the plastics throughout the automotive industry. With a headquarters in Detroit Michigan, they are best equipped to support OEM’s, their tiered supplier base, and the plastic compounders that provide the raw materials. Supply chain opportunities On average, each automobile uses about 30,000 individual parts that are manufactured by 1500 suppliers. As more of these components transition to reinforced plastic, industrial hemp will become the go-to filler / fiber additive that can reliably reduce the weight of plastics used in each individual part. The product development timelines that are traditionally required for structural parts in the automotive industry means that sustainable materials may take years to hit fullscale production. However, automotive manufacturers want to reduce the carbon footprint of their supply chain today. Fortunately, the revolution in green materials is starting to evolve past the vehicle and into other parts of the supply chain. Packaging and transportation By and large, the automotive OEM’s are not in the manufacturing business, they are in the assembly business. This means that the largest automotive manufacturers are reliant on a complicated supply chain network that involves thousands of suppliers distributing delicate and oddshaped car parts. The packaging that is used to ship these parts typically comes in one of two forms: • Customized to the specific car part • Standardized crates Typically, the large, standardized crates are made of thick, heavy plastic. This means that each crate that the car parts are shipped in can weigh anywhere from 50–100 kg. It is not uncommon for these heavy, plastic crates to make up 50 % of the total weight of the payload that is being shipped from one manufacturer to the next. The ability to lightweight the plastic crates that are used in automotive logistics will increase the number of car parts that can travel in each load, and thus save additionally energy in transportation. Bringing down the logistics cost of the parts in the vehicle can reduce the sticker price of the cars available at your local car dealership. The automotive industry is reliant on a network of 18-wheelers that all benefit from lighter-weight packaging. Fortunately, the same benefits that cars receive through lightweighting are also applicable to the logistics networks that source the 30,000 car parts required to make a single vehicle. As an easy first step, Heartland is seeking to use its hemp-based products to improve the carbon footprint of the packaging. By removing mineral materials like talc and calcium carbonate in the plastic, and replacing it with hemp materials, the automotive companies can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute, and use cars. Heartland is working on product development initiatives with multiple automotive OEM’s and tiered suppliers by working on packaging, structural, and non-structural components. These manufactured parts use all different types of polymers and input formats of Heartland’s materials. The one common denominator is the fact that the lightest plastics will undoubtedly use sustainable materials as fillers and reinforcing fibres for decades to come. As Heartland builds a reliable industrial hemp supply chain in America, they will turn to the largest manufacturers of cars, boats, and planes to support their lightweighting and sustainability initiatives. It is reliable supply chains of sustainable materials that have the best opportunity to help automotive companies lightweight the vehicles of the future. bioplastics MAGAZINE [03/21] Vol. 16 47

bioplastics MAGAZINE ePaper