From Design to Manufacture: Bring Innovative Solutions to Automotive Value Chain

By That's, November 9, 2018

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Henkel, the global leading automotive surface treatment and adhesive supplier, won the Technology Innovation Award presented by International Automotive Light Weight Alliance (IALWA) at its annual conference & International Automotive Light Weight Technology and Materials Innovation Summit in October 2018. In the backdrop of the company’s achievement, That’s Shanghai interviewed Mark Hyde, Corporate Director of Automotive Body Assembly & Design Asia Pacific, Henkel Adhesive Technologies to learn about the automotive industry innovations. 

Please give us an introduction to Henkel and your business in the automotive market. 
Henkel operates worldwide with leading brands and technologies in three business areas namely: laundry and homecare, beauty care and adhesive technologies. Henkel holds a leading position in the markets globally both in consumer and industrial business with well-known brands such as Persil, Schwarzkopf and Loctite.

Since its entry into China in the early 1990s, Henkel has achieved a position of a reputed and recognized market leadership in adhesives, sealants and surface treatments in China's automotive industry. 

With our extensive range of products and system solutions, Henkel has become a key partner in the development and manufacturing procedures of OEM and auto suppliers. The automotive industry, OEM and auto suppliers all benefit from Henkel's extremely high-performance adhesives and sealants. These materials create opportunities to design and build advanced lightweight vehicles and to enable seemingly conflicting aims, such as higher performance and lower fuel consumption. Henkel also makes a significant contribution to safety, comfort and value retention. Components made of highly rigid structural foams absorb impact energy in the event of a crash (improved safety); innovative sound-deadening materials improve vehicle acoustics (more comfort); and special pre-treatment systems for car bodies, which optimize corrosion protection and paint adhesion (improved durability). At the same time, Henkel's know-how helps customers to conserve environmental resources and increase the efficiency of their production processes. In a nutshell, Henkel's cutting-edge solutions make the vehicle safer, more durable and more comfortable.

Mark Hyde with Automotive Lightweight Green Technology Innovation Awards 2018 (Image via Henkel)

The automotive industry is facing a technological change. As a leading supplier of automotive materials, what kind of innovation can Henkel provide?
The vision for future cars goes something like this: Those cars will be electric and sustainable. At the same time, they will be intelligent, connected and digitally operated. They will even be able to transport passengers to their chosen destination autonomously in an autopilot mode, which will be a safe and comfortable option. Car manufacturers and component suppliers are now working on new concepts and technologies to develop solutions to the number of challenges that this vision poses. Many of these technologies are already being used in series production today, and they are gaining ground rapidly. The automotive industry has actually relied on our technical know-how for many years in this process, because Henkel’s Adhesive Technologies business unit has a unique portfolio – geared towards making cars more sustainable, safer and more comfortable with over 300 different applications. 

For example, for years, car manufacturers have been struggling with the increasing weight of vehicles, because of stricter compliances regarding active and passive safety, the multitude of electronic devices and components. The batteries in electric cars all have a tendency to tip the scales. The heavier the vehicle, the shorter its recharge mileage will be. That is the reason why the industry is turning to lightweight construction materials like aluminum or synthetic materials.

Henkel’s adhesives and sealants make lightweight automotive construction possible, because bonding is the new welding. It can support the reduction of a car’s weight by up to 15 percent. Bonded joints can withstand high amounts of stress from oscillations, vibrations and temperature fluctuations, and ensure that different materials remain securely and durably joined together. Among other things, Henkel adhesives are used on car body parts, engines, powertrains, gearboxes, rearview mirrors, seats and steeling wheels. At the same time, they also make cars safer, more resistant to corrosion and more durable. 

How and why innovation at Henkel has changed its game?
Henkel has truly global engineering teams, who are working across all areas of automotive mass productionand, who are fully capable of design, project management and launch support for OEM platforms. All regions also have in-house prototyping facilities utilizing 3D printers to provide agile response time in the customers design phase. Regional engineering centers ensure that project teams have direct access to local customer engineering centers. Moreover, global matrix networks ensure that lessons learned from each experience and the best practices are constantly shared among all the regions. 

Furthermore, Henkel supports its customers throughout the value chain from the design process to production. For example, Henkel's new NVH & lightweight laboratory is dedicated to noise regulation testing and NVH quality and lightweight improvements, with state-of-the-art experimental and computational analysis facilities. The testing lab that is equipped with modal platform, 3D printer, semi-anechoic room, laser vibrometer, acoustic holography array and full car body oven, can help OEMs and identify the problems and solve them. With global expertise based on extensive experience in the automotive market, we are positioned to provide sustainable, innovative and efficient solutions across the entire value chain. Henkel’s NVH solutions allow the OEMs and automotive suppliers to experiment with ways of damping the noise and reducing weight at the same time to maximize efficacy in all areas involving automotive adhesives.

We learned that Henkel has recently been honored the Technology Innovation Award at IALTA (China) Auto Lightweight Annual Summit 2018. You also mentioned that Henkel’s adhesive business is emphasizing focus on lightweight sectors, what is the reason behind this?
There are many evolving drivers within the automotive industry. However, even with the increasing focus on autonomous and electric vehicles, one key area of focus continues to be bringing down the weight of the car. Reducing the weight by just 10 percent can improve fuel efficiency by six to eight percent.

While high-strength light-weight steel grades continue to be used for reducing the vehicle mass, newer metals with low density, including aluminum and magnesium, are increasingly in demand, as are polymer materials such as fiber reinforced composites.

As a result, modern lightweight designs require new bonding technologies to optimize the material's mix incorporated in today’s vehicle structures. Bonding has a special importance, because it enables the use of combinations of new materials while providing structural advantages for bonded components that enable design flexibility while enhancing vehicle structural integrity.

Henkel is one of the members of International Automotive Lightweight Green Technology Alliance and has been honored with the Technology Innovation Award for two consecutive years. The product selected this year was Henkel Structural Adhesive TEROSON EP Series. It is used in the body shop for metal bonding applications, replacing welding or expensive riveting operations. Application of TEROSON EP Series enables automotive manufacturers to achieve outstanding long-term structural integrity of lightweight materials by optimizing material strength and crash load performance. TEROSON EP Series is a heat curing, solvent free, metal to metal adhesive with good storage stability based on epoxy resins. The material can be spot-welded through and gives maximum strength with curing temperatures between 155 degrees Celsius and 190 degrees Celsius. The product exhibits excellent strength and corrosion resistance at extreme temperatures even after extensive aging and weathering.

In recent years, China's local automotive brands have emerged as a new force in the sectors of new energy vehicles. What’s your strategy in providing services to the local enterprises?
It is a very good question. There are two main reasons which motivate us to develop our adhesive solutions for new energy vehicles. The first reason is that we see a great market potential in China driven by national policy support and consumer preference.

By 2020, the scale of the industry will reach RMB1 billion or even higher. The scale of prevalence of new energy vehicles will be expanded. By 2020, annual production/sales volume will reach at minimum 2 million units and cumulative total will become over 5 million units.

The second reason is, Henkel has built an extensive range of products and system solutions and has gathered rich experience in cooperation with international OEMs. We therefore, feel that we can contribute our expertise to help China’s NEV development. As a key partner of China’s automotive industry, OEM and auto suppliers, we hope our knowledge, expertise and experience on high performance adhesives and sealants can benefit them and create solutions for design and build of advanced new energy vehicles. 

On the one hand, we speed up localization and introduce new products in the global markets. On the other hand, Henkel has set up a state-of-the-art R&D center in China, which is one of Henkel's six technology centers of competence worldwide. The largest adhesive plant in the world, our Dragon Plant, is also located in China. Thus, we provide timely, efficient and best-in-class services to our local customers.

[Cover image via Henkel]

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