New green plastic automotive mirrors for export in 2012

A partnership between the CRC for Advanced Automotive Technology (AutoCRC), the University of South Australia and SMR Automotive Australia, has resulted in a new clean, green, plastic automotive mirror product which will be launched in 2012.

The translation of science to real world product was concluded with the opening of a new multi-million dollar thin-film coating facility in Adelaide in May 2011, by Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

The mirror facility will create a range of commercial mirrors for the automotive industry. The surfacing process imparts a stable, highly reflective coating surface on polycarbonate plastic and has a thickness of less than 5 microns, or around 1/10th the thickness of a human hair.

The light weight plastic mirrors offer the automotive industry, designers and consumers many benefits, including:

  • Reduction in weight of the mirror reflector by 50%.
  • Reduction in overall mass of the mirror assembly by 15% (this includes the mirror reflector and structural elements).
  • A reduction in green house gas emissions due to the reduced mirror mass of up to 400,000 tonnes of CO2 over five years (per 100,000 vehicles).
  • Enhanced safety in any crash situation as plastic (polycarbonate) does not shatter like glass.

The mirrors are designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions, ranging from – 40C to +80C and UV exposure, and have an abrasion resistance equivalent to that of glass. 

The moulded plastic mirror also has clips on the rear surface to allow direct attachment of the mirror motor mechanism, resulting in fewer mirror components and significantly simplifying the assembly process relative to glass mirror products.  The reflector plastic can also be moulded into more complex 3D shapes creating extraordinary opportunities for vehicle stylists to change the design paradigm of the exterior mirror.

All of this has been made possible by enabling plastic to perform at, or above, the levels of glass through the application of nano-engineered thin film coating systems. 

“This is a great example of the Australian innovation system working. It’s a real partnership between industry, research organisations and government,” AutoCRC chief executive, Dr Mathew Cuthbertson said.

“This is the future of the Australian automotive industry – innovative, globalised and ready to compete. We cannot focus on merely supplying for domestic consumption.”

Due to the positive environmental impact, SMR Automotive Australia was awarded funding through the Australian Government’s Green Car Innovation program in 2010 to commercialise the technology.

According to SMR Australia Mr Sandercock, the funding support would provide new employment opportunities in South Australia, assist the development of new skills, and support diversification and growth in our business.

AutoCRC is receiving $38.7 million in funding through the Australian Government’s CRC program over the period 2005-06 to 2011-12, to deliver smarter, safer, cleaner manufacturing and vehicle technologies, and to produce the next generation of scientists and skilled workers for the automotive sector.

The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program is an Australian Government Initiative.

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