Detroit - Johnson Controls Inc. first showed its proprietary Compression Hybrid Molding (CHyM) process for lighter weight auto interior parts using biocomposites in 2013.
In 2017, what had been the auto interiors unit at JCI is now part of Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, and as Yanfeng, the company now has its CHyM -- which it pronounces as "chime" -- process in production, making door panels on the Cadenza, made in South Korea by Kia Motor Corp. A second production line, with an undisclosed European carmaker, will launch soon.
With the process gaining traction, Yanfeng is further refining the potential for lighter weight interiors, now by marrying the biocomposite with a lighter weight decorative cover made from film, rather than a standard leather or molded skin.
"We're continuing to develop more and more lightweight and cost affordable solutions," said Craig Theisen, vice president of product management -- door panels, during an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 10.
CHyM uses a natural fiber mat, put into a tool and back injected with polypropylene with a honeycomb structure to provide needed performance. It also is available as a glass fiber mat. On its own, CHyM parts offer up to 40 percent weight savings, depending on the part and the customers' demands.
"Even if you compare an injection molded substrate with this natural fiber material, it takes kilos out," said Han Hendricks, vice president of technology for Yanfeng, which has global offices in Shanghai and U.S. offices in Plymouth, Mich.
The CHyM panels can be used without any skin, but few automakers have shown an interest in showing the natural material.
From a consumer point of view, you can still have the leather or PVC slush molded skin if that's what you want, but the substrate is the natural, lightweight structure," Hendricks said.
But now as an option, Yanfeng is showing a new decorative cover with a thermoplastic polyolefin film.
Examples shown by Yanfeng at its NAIAS booth used a patterned film which still allowed the natural fiber to be seen beneath the surface in a tight mesh, producing a three-dimensional effect.
Mike Zimmer, senior process engineer for Yanfeng, pointed to examples that produced panels that resembled waves, ripples or herringbone patterns. The film offers ultraviolet protection, and on lower door panels could easily help to hide scuffs and scratches.
The film covering is being shown to automakers now, with hopes of bringing it to market in future model years.