Ford and BASF have teamed up to develop a sustainable, plant-sourced castor oil-based foam product for the 2012 Ford Focus instrument panel.
The unique foam is said to improve the look and feel with a soft-touch texture, and takes less time to produce, which increases manufacturing productivity.
“Working with BASF, we can offer North American customers the new Focus with the industry’s first seamless soft-touch instrument panel that’s stronger, better-looking and better on the environment,” said Bari Brown from Ford. “Castor oil from plants helps deliver sustainable interior foam that reduces petroleum use while improving vehicle craftsmanship. It’s beneficial both for the customer and Mother Nature.”
Castor oil is derived from the Ricinus Communis flowering spurge plant, which has grows throughout tropical regions. The plant’s oil presents a sustainable interior foam solution that does not compete with food sources. Employing more than 10 percent renewable content, the resulting foam product passes Ford’s performance requirements for interior components.
The new castor oil-based foam is significantly more durable than the previously used material, with a 36 percent better tensile strength, a measure of the foam’s ability to hold its shape over time. Tear strength also is improved by 5 percent while elongation – stretch under temperature or impact stress – is reduced by almost 12 percent.
From a customer’s perspective, the Focus instrument panel is softer to the touch; it seamlessly contains the first-row passenger airbag, for a more appealing interior.
Productivity is improved and the manufacturing process is simplified by the 43 percent reduction in time for the castor oil-based foam product to cure. Scrap from this foam product is reduced due to improved flow and processing characteristics.
The first castor oil-based foam is a sustainable product that saves more than 5000 barrels of oil for every 300,000 Ford Focus produced in North America. Over time, Ford plans to incorporate castor oil-based foam solutions across more products in its portfolio.
Ford has concentrated on increasing the use of non-metal recycled and bio-based materials whenever possible. Examples include soy foam seat cushions and gaskets, straw-filled storage bins, recycled resins for underbody systems, recycled yarns on seat covers and natural-fiber plastic for interior components.
Ford was the first automaker to demonstrate soy-based foam could be formulated to pass the stringent requirements for automotive applications, pioneering its use in seats for the 2008 Ford Mustang and in headliners for the 2010 Ford Escape.