Traditionally, instrument panels were made from several separate components that needed to be painted and that were all held together by a steel supporting beam that lay behind the panel. Today, thanks to modern plastics technology, instrument panels are made of acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS), ABS/polycarbonate alloys, polycarbonates, polypropylene, modified polyphenylene ether (PPE) and SMA (styrene maleic anhydride) resins. These plastics allow for complex designs in items such as: airbag housings, center stacks for instrument panels, and large, integrated instrument panel pieces. They are also used in manufacturing the rest of the automobile's interior trim. These plastics are also capable of eliminating the need for a steel support beam, allowing manufacturers to save dramatically on the cost of the instrument panel while substantially reducing its weight.
Wholly integrated single-piece units can be manufactured from all-urethane and all-polypropylene resins. This results in a seamless instrument panel with greatly reduced NVH levels, molded-in color and with significant cost savings for the manufacturer. Cost effective post-consumer and in-plant recycling is also achievable.
Image provided by the Automotive Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers International (SPE), a not-for-profit engineering society.