Engineers at Ford have taken inspiration from Nestle's Aero chocolate bar to produce lightweight MuCell (aka microcellular plastic foam) plastic parts by injecting them with gas bubbles during the manufacturing process. The injection of gas creates a honeycomb structure with a cross-section that closely resembles that of the tasty sweet and, more important, the bubbles mean that less plastic is required. Ford says that the MuCell plastic – thanks to its reduced weight – improves fuel economy and emissions without compromising durability.

MuCell technology expert Carsten Starke had this to say of the bubbly plastic:
The first time I saw this plastic under the microscope I thought to myself it looks like an Aero chocolate bar! The bubbles in the chocolate change the taste, but in our plastics they save weight and making cars lighter reduces emissions and fuel consumption significantly.
The 2012 Focus is Ford's first model that will benefit from the weight-saving MuCell plastic. Eventually, every vehicle in the Blue Oval's lineup will get a taste of the chocolate-inspired technology.

[Source: Ford]
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Ford's Chocolate Inspired Weight-Saving Technology

* Honeycomb structure MuCell plastic parts save 20 per cent weight, improving fuel economy and emissions, without compromising durability
* Injection of gas during moulding creates a cross-section resembling an Aero chocolate bar on a microscopic level, with the bubbles meaning less plastic is used
* Parts require less energy and time to manufacture, reducing emissions and cost

COLOGNE, Germany, Apr. 01, 2011 – In their never-ending quest to reduce weight and therefore emissions and fuel use, Ford's engineers have taken inspiration from the Aero chocolate bar to produce lighter plastic parts by injecting gas bubbles during manufacturing.

There are many areas where weight can be saved by changing the type or grade of metal used to a stronger, lighter material to trim kilos from the kerb weight. Plastic parts are an area where it is traditionally difficult to save weight without sacrificing strength, durability or function, but Ford has found a solution. MuCell technology introduces gas bubbles into the plastic as it is moulded, leaving a microscopic honeycomb structure. These tiny spaces save weight by reducing the amount of plastic used, without compromising the integrity of the part.

Weight plays a key role in vehicle emissions and reducing the overall mass of the vehicle results in improvements to fuel economy and carbon emissions. Vehicle weights have increased in the last 30 years to allow for much greater levels of equipment and radically improved safety attributes. Ford has targeted reducing weight while still providing class leading levels of equipment and 5-star Euro NCAP safety ratings.

MuCell brings a host of other benefits with lower pressures used to mould the plastic and up to 33 per cent more parts per hour than a conventional process. This increase in speed and efficiency reduces energy consumption, manufacturing emissions and cost for parts produced using the innovative technique.

MuCell technology expert Carsten Starke is excited by the potential of the new process. He says: "The first time I saw this plastic under the microscope I thought to myself it looks like an Aero chocolate bar! The bubbles in the chocolate change the taste, but in our plastics they save weight and making cars lighter reduces emissions and fuel consumption significantly.

"We are saving weight in many ways, not just by using this new plastic, because lighter cars handle better, accelerate faster and stop more quickly. For the customer it is win-win, the plastic is 20 per cent lighter without increasing cost or reducing strength and it will help make their Ford better in almost every aspect."

The MuCell technology will see its first application in engine covers which will be rolled out over the next few years on vehicles such as Focus, C-MAX and Grand C-MAX, S-MAX, Mondeo and Galaxy. Ford has committed to a minimum of 100kg weight reduction from even its smallest cars and 300kg from larger cars by 2020 as part of its environmental initiatives. This weight-saving initiative, which includes MuCell technology, also features a suite of other materials like high-strength Boron steels which are now used extensively in Ford models.

These new materials join innovations such as the EcoBoost range of engines, which allow the use of more efficient, lower capacity engines even in larger vehicles without sacrificing performance. A range of other measures including automatic stop-start engines, aerodynamic grille shutters and low rolling resistance tyres make Ford's ECOnetic models amongst the most efficient on sale.

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.fordmotorcompany.com.

Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 51 individual markets and employs approximately 66,000 employees. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford of Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 22 manufacturing facilities, including joint ventures. The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.

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