PlasCork-Automotive – the best of two worlds

A “consortium” formed by Simoldes Plásticos, , Amorim Cork Composites and PIEP launched the PlasCork-Automotive project  aimed to add specific properties of cork – the natural and unique material from cork oak trees – to plastic automotive components, whose work has been developed since 2009 and is expected to be completed by the end of year 2011.  Three cork applications will be studied and investigated:

1) cork as an element for impact energy absorption (padding), substituting the current solutions based on synthetic materials;

2) cork as an acoustic insulation element, substituting current solutions based on synthetic materials;

3) cork as a decorative element with high added-value for the design of new car interiors.



The padding concept includes  development  based in computational simulations using the finite element method (CAE). The cork acoustic insulation element  development  combines material composition and part geometry, in order to reduce noise in the automotive interior. The cork decorative element  requires the development of protective systems (coatings) against light exposition (UV protection). In each case, the productive processes must be evaluated, the tooling must be designed and constructed, to produce the components (prototypes)  that have to be tested and validated. This integrated and iterative development process, must have a results  publically disseminated (after adequate IPR protection, if applicable).
Besides the innovative aspects of the project, of its potential for opening new markets and business opportunities in the automotive sector for the involved companies, the PlasCork-Automotive project  is also developing  more eco-sustainable products, making use of natural cork, which fits the new trend of using green materials in the automotive industry.
The PlasCork project brings together core and reference knowledge on cork materials and plastics:
The SIMOLDES Plastics Division, part of the Simoldes Group, with headquarters in Oliveira de Azeméis (Portugal), is a reference set of seven companies company dedicated to the design, development and production of plastic parts, mainly for the automotive industry, with manufacturing operations in Portugal, France, Brazil and Poland, and technical/commercial sites in France and Germany. Main customers are situated in Spain, France, Germany, UK and Poland. Simoldes is one of the few groups with capacity to support and produce for main OEMs like PSA, Renault, Volvo, VW, Audi, SEAT, Nissan, Toyota, Porsche, Honda, Mercedes, GM, Mitsubishi, Bébéconfort and AmtrolAlfa.

Amorim Cork Composites, part of the Amorim Group (global leader in the cork industry) develops composites and materials for aerospace, aeronautics and automotive applications.

The PIEP – Innovation in Polymer Engineering is a private non-profit research and development organisation providing consultancy, materials development, product and processing technology development, as well as testing services for the polymer industry worldwide and related sectors. Established in 2001 by some of the leading national plastic companies, the University of Minho and with national government support, PIEP holds a wide range of associated members, the majority plastic industry affiliates (plastics converters, machinery suppliers, mould making companies, compounders and material suppliers). Based in Guimarães (Portugal) and strategically located in the University of Minho Campus, close to the Department of Polymer Engineering, PIEP currently employs over 30 people with relevant academic background and applied R&D experience in a wide range of polymer science and engineering domains.