3M strengthens automotive acoustics activity

Technology company 3M has set up a specialist European Automotive Acoustics Group in the UK.

Already active in NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) and structural adhesives, the group will focus on balancing manufacturers' weight reduction and acoustics requirements, and developing advanced materials and products into cost-effective bespoke solutions. 3M is allocating additional resources to its European acoustics laboratories in Bracknell and will expand its European engineering, testing and manufacturing capabilities.

The head of the new group, Abs Master, says using 3M's proprietary Thinsulate acoustic insulation as part of an intelligent material mix could help engineers cut vehicles' mass, with reductions of up to 50 per cent in the weight of some parts. "In a recent application, we were able to save 2kg from a single 4kg component," he said.

Thinsulate acoustic insulation uses a lightweight, non-woven blend of polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate fibres. It is up to four times lighter than traditional mixed-fibre shoddy mats, foams and other absorbers, and is also hydrophobic, allowing it be used in exterior applications such as fender liners and the water-shedders inside doors.

As well as its advantages for weight reduction, some manufacturers are 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."

3M plans to introduce further acoustic materials innovations in the coming months.

The Automotive Acoustics Group caters for all applications including body-in-white, interior, exterior, powertrain and paintshops.

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