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The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has long faced the dilemma of balancing the safety and welfare of military personnel with the need for reducing the weight of armed forces gear and equipment.
Metal-to-plastic conversion is a decades-old process, but not all manufacturers are taking full advantage of its benefits. There is general, common concern about strength, durability and cost; however, the reality is that injection-molded plastic components, when properly designed, are just as strong as metal. In addition, plastic can provide exceptional chemical- and heat-resistance while simultaneously slashing production costs.
Since 1975, the automotive industry has been under governmental mandate to improve the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks manufactured in the United States. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, born out of the Arab Oil Embargo of the mid-70s, are still in effect today with recently added emphasis placed on further improving fuel economy, reducing greenhouse gases and saving people money at the gas pump.
More manufacturing companies—especially automotive—are becoming aware of converting existing metal products or parts to plastic. Plastic parts have the same tight tolerances and are just as tough as metal parts. Plastics can be engineered to have specific characteristics for particular applications that are better than metal. Plastic parts are typically up to 50 percent lighter in weight than metal parts and converting from metal to plastic can significantly reduce total manufacturing costs.
Manufacturers in the automotive industry are more familiar with metal-to-plastic conversion because they are using this technology to reduce vehicle weight and meet tougher federal emission standards. Engineered plastics that are chemical-resistant and heat-resistant are especially good for fuel systems, fluid handling systems, and under-the-hood applications.