Two Auto Suppliers Form Alliance to Produce More Sustainable Thermoplastics

To reduce greenhouses gases, cost, and weight, suppliers from Michigan and North Carolina have formed a new alliance to boost the use of basalt fiber compounded into injection molded thermoplastics within the automotive industry.
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basalt fiber
The Materials Group and Mafic USA have partnered to use more basalt fiber in the automotive industry. // Photo courtesy of Mafic USA

To reduce greenhouses gases, cost, and weight, suppliers from Michigan and North Carolina have formed a new alliance to boost the use of basalt fiber compounded into injection molded thermoplastics within the automotive industry.

The Materials Group, a thermoplastics manufacturer and distributor of sustainable plastics directly serving auto OEMS and their Tier manufacturing suppliers in Rockford, north of Grand Rapids, and Mafic USA, which recently began operations at the world’s largest basalt fiber production facility in Shelby, N.C., say they are combining their respective expertise to promote the unique mechanical properties that basalt fiber attains.

Basalt fiber is a drawn continuous fiber similar to glass (i.e. fiberglass) and to fibers made from carbon or aramid.

To produce the fiber, mined basalt rock is first washed and then placed into a furnace at a temperature of approximately 1500 °C.  The resulting melt is extruded through a “bushing,” a precious metal block with thousands of microscopic holes, each producing a single filament.

Upon leaving the bushing, the fiber filament hardens and a sizing is applied to improve its properties before the fiber filaments are wound with other finished fibers into a strand.  Basalt fiber is a sustainable filler as compared to glass fiber yielding a 50 percent reduction in emissions output during manufacturing of the fiber.

The fiber, both chopped and continuous, provides superior mechanical properties compared to glass fiber for injection molded-able thermoplastics used in a variety of auto parts.  Specifically, it offers improved tensile, flexural, and impact properties compared to currently used materials.

In addition, the fiber offers a value proposition in nylon resins as a replacement for existing filled materials, the companies state. Basalt Fiber can be blended with other fibers to better balance cost and performance when targeting structural automotive applications.

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