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3M forms specialist European group for vehicle acoustics

28 July 2010

3M has established a specialist Automotive Acoustics Group in Europe. Already active in NVH and structural adhesives, the Group will focus on balancing manufacturers’ weight reduction and acoustics requirements, and developing advanced materials and products for specific projects. As a result, 3M will allocate additional resources to its European acoustics laboratories and will expand its European engineering, testing and manufacturing capabilities.

“Bringing 3M’s considerable resources to bear on the problem will help engineers cut vehicles’ mass, thus reducing CO2 emissions further while ensuring the driving experience exceeds customers’ expectations,” says Abs Master (pictured), head of 3M’s European Automotive Acoustics Group. “Using Thinsulate acoustic insulation as part of an intelligent material mix can play a significant role reducing total vehicle weight. Typical mass reductions range up to 50 per cent and, in a recent application, we were able to save 2kg from a single 4kg component.”

3M’s range of Thinsulate acoustic insulation uses a lightweight, non-woven blend of polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate fibres. With its knowledge and expertise 3M can provide acoustic solutions that make manufacturing and assembly of parts faster and more cost-effective. Thinsulate is up to four times lighter than traditional mixed-fibre shoddy mats, foams and other absorbers. It is also hydrophobic, allowing it be used in exterior applications such as fender liners and the water-shedders inside doors.

Mass reduction is a top priority for the industry; a lighter car consumes less energy, the trigger for the start of a steady downward spiral in CO2 emissions. The same basic physics is also driving the growing popularity of B- and C- segment cars as buyers downsize to smaller vehicles to save fuel. But as vehicles become smaller and lighter, their NVH packages must evolve.

“Buyers downsizing into small cars still expect premium acoustics quality, but achieving this takes a smarter mix of materials in the vehicle’s NVH package,” says Master. “Engineers have traditionally used heavy shoddy mats and foams with densities ranging from 500-1000g/m sq to absorb airborne noise from the engine, wind, tyres and motors.

“3M’s Automotive Acoustic Group will provide vehicle manufacturers and suppliers with simple, cost-effective solutions that will help them move on from this,” says Master. “With a density of 200-400g/m sq, Thinsulate absorbs mid to high-frequency noise effectively, enabling a weight reduction on the total acoustic package.”

Some manufacturers are also using Thinsulate to help them replace expensive moulded parts, says 3M. The flat, multi-layer material is die-cut with slits and perforation, allowing it to form around the vehicle body in the same way as a moulded part. “It’s not just lighter,” says Master. “By reducing the tooling and logistics, there’s also a financial benefit. Its properties make it a particularly competitive alternative to moulded foams for transmission tunnels and the interior dash mats.”

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