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Reimagining automotive forward lighting with polycarbonates

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When it comes to materials and technologies for future auto lighting, Covestro is driving ahead of the curve, developing a functional headlamp concept to illustrate how polycarbonates enable functional and aesthetic benefits. This visionary approach can also reduce weight, space and cost while offering greater sustainability.

Mono-material headlamp in use

Part consolidation: less is more 

Traditional headlamps are complex, usually incorporating dozens of components and screws. Covestro advocates a forward-looking approach to forward lighting, with a headlamp module concept comprised of a reflector/housing, collimator lens, bezel and outer lens cover that results in significantly fewer parts. 
 
Multi-shot molding of Makrolon® TC8030 thermally conductive polycarbonate and Makrolon® DS801 dimensionally stable polycarbonate, along with a molded-in-place design strategy, enables the low- and high-beam LED modules and their corresponding reflectors to be produced less expensively through  elimination of added heat sinks, attachments and other components. The bezel of Makrolon® polycarbonate uses multi-shot molding to consolidate turn signal and daylight running lamps while hiding sensors behind a LiDAR-transparent mask. Beyond reducing system complexity and costs, simplifying assembly and saving valuable space, this novel approach also reduces headlamp weight, which aids better fuel mileage and lower emissions or increased battery range.

Integrating electronics

Future automotive headlamps will integrate electronics such as LiDAR, radar and cameras in addition to light sources. This will require use of thermally conductive materials to dissipate the heat generated by the electronics and light sources. The headlamp demonstrator is the first of its kind to do so with Makrolon® TC8030 polycarbonate.
 
The low- and high-beam reflectors utilize Makrolon® DS801 polycarbonate for highly efficient reflectivity of visible light. The reflectors can be molded directly into the Makrolon® TC8030 polycarbonate housing with multi-shot molding and vario-thermal mold control techniques. This eliminates the need to attach the reflector with brackets and fasteners, contributing to lightweighting.
 
The Makrolon® DS801 polycarbonate material provides a metalizable, smooth surface finish similar to unfilled polycarbonate and can enable greater lumen output compared to other systems. In fact, the single, metalizable component yields a beam pattern performance that remains stable throughout the operating temperature of the LED lamp system due to its low, isotropic thermal expansion.
 
The bezel is a three-shot molded part with Makrolon® LED2445 in both amber color for the turn signals and a diffusion color for the DRLs, coupled with Makrolon® LED2445 ST sensor transparent polycarbonate. The bezel hides advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) sensors and consolidates daytime running lights (DRLs), turn-signals and pedestrian communication lighting into one part. The bezel blends cutting-edge performance and aesthetics, including a “dead front,” seamless appearance, a high gloss finish enhanced with laser-etched effects, and diffused back-lighting for safety and signature lighting.

Mono-material strategy: good for automakers … and the planet

Due to its smart design, the LED headlamp system uses only four different materials: Makrolon® polycarbonate; Bayblend® polycarbonate/ABS blend, a scratch-resistant coating (outer lens cover) and metallization (reflectors). This simplifies recycling by reducing separation, sorting and storage in the recycling streams at the end of the headlamp’s useful life. The mono-material headlamp is 2-3 centimeters thinner than traditional designs—a designer’s dream! It is also over 1.5 kg lighter, which can help reduce fuel consumption and, therefore, emissions.
 
This novel headlamp design underscores Covestro’s commitment to sustainability and the circular economy.

Technical support where and when it’s needed

Leveraging its global resources, Covestro collaborates with automakers and their suppliers to implement advanced technologies integrating LEDs, electronics, sensors and other technologies. This includes part and mold design for achieving an optimal balance of performance, aesthetics and economics. The field support Covestro offers helps customers optimize manufacturing processes to maximize productivity and quality.

You might say this headlamp prototype is a lighting engineer’s toolbox of unique enabling technologies, allowing OEMs to reduce parts, weight, space and assembly steps–while simultaneously enhancing sustainability. It’s the latest example of how Covestro consistently brings value to our customers.

Jim Lorenzo

Application Development Engineer, Covestro

Key Benefits

  • Improve production efficiencies  Makrolon® polycarbonate and smart headlamp design reduces parts, streamlines assembly
  • Lighter by design Lightweight polycarbonates provide high performance while reducing module weight
  • Integrated functions Integrates electronics, such as LiDAR, radar and cameras, as well as light sources
  • Greater design freedom Broadens possibilities for aesthetics, progressive styling and differentiation
  • Eye on sustainability  Reducing weight, parts and materials contribute to greater sustainability
COV-199 Application Development Interactive 2-pager FINAL 2017-11-13
COV-206_Processing Information for Automotive Lens
COV-207_Static Control for Automotive Lighting
COV-208_Minimizing molded-in stresses in automotive lenses
COV-209_Gate for automotive lighting
COV-210_Common Defects that May Occur During Automotive Lens Molding
COV-211_Annealing of Molded Makrolon
COV-258_Covestro PC-centric Headlamp

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