JAPAN: Mazda develops new automotive bio-plastic

By Graeme Roberts | 10 December 2014

Mazda has developed a bio-based engineering plastic suitable for exterior automobile parts which the automaker said would help it decrease its environmental impact.

Made from plant-derived materials, it curbs petroleum use and CO2 emissions. And since the bioplastic can be dyed and does not require painting, it also reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds. Dying the material gives the parts a deep hue and smooth, mirror-like finish of a higher quality than can be achieved with a traditional painted plastic.

The automaker has been developing biomass technologies for a number of years. Under the Mazda Biotechmaterial name, the company has developed what it said was the automotive industry's first high strength, heat-resistant and plant-based bioplastic for interior parts as well as the world's first biofabric for seat upholstery made entirely from plant-derived fibre. To be suitable for exterior parts and the harsh environmental factors to which they are exposed, bioplastics need to be exceptionally weather, scratch and impact resistant.

Mazda has now succeeded in making a material suitable for both interior and exterior parts. It was achieved by optimising the composition of a highly mouldable and durable new bioplastic base material with additives and colouring agents, and enhancing moulding specifications. This will enable the company to produce parts that are as durable as conventional painted ABS plastic parts, yet feature a higher-quality finish and the associated design advantages.

This bioplastic will be used first for interior parts in the redesigned MX-5, to be launched in 2015, before finding its way onto exterior components of other production models. The automaker will display prototype parts made from the bioplastic at Eco-Products 2014, an environmental technology exhibit opening this week in Tokyo.

The material was developed in conjunction with Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation.