How Electric Vehicles and Polymer Fusion Labeling Disrupt Automotive Industry
Innovation is the catalyst by which global economies have the means to revolutionize the human experience.
New inventions and ideas can be “disruptive,” quite literally shaking an industry to its core and redefining everything.
Out with the old, in with the new.
Examples of disruptive technologies and companies include the likes of Amazon, the internet, Google, Facebook, the Apple iPod, electric vehicles, etc. In each of these examples, industries were shaken at the arrival of something totally innovative and the way we interact with one another (for good or bad) on a global, socioeconomic scale was changed forever.
Disruptive technologies are like that. They disrupt. Redefine. Raise the bar higher.
The automobile was one such idea that irrevocably altered the course of human existence. It was pieced together with ideas, steel, skepticism, and sheer will.
The road (pun intended) to the automobile was not a quick one. The journey was long and has seen several changes during its evolution.
On an average workday, you might hit the snooze button a couple of times, brew your morning coffee, start your car, and head to the office. You will follow and pass dozens of cars on your route.
But it wasn’t that long ago that there were no busy highways with cars dotting the asphalt and fading into the horizon. Instead, your morning routine probably had more to do with feeding and saddling your horse. Horses were the backbone of 19th-century life, and the primary means of transportation for humans and goods for a long time.
When automobiles came on the scene, they disrupted everything.
Horses are strong, but they require a lot of upkeep and produce a lot of manure.
Some towns and cities were diligent about keeping their streets clear, but not all of them.
Not everyone was a fan of these new vehicles, however. As with most new inventions, people needed time to accept them. Many were skeptical of these new and seemingly dangerous contraptions, criticizing that they were dangerous to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Despite the skepticism, in one decade, cars began to replace horses and bicycles as the standard form of transportation for people and goods in the United States.
By 1917, the increase in registered cars grew to almost 5 million, and the use of commercial, agricultural, and military vehicles reached 400,000.
The age of the horse was officially over.
Car Becomes King
History credits Karl Benz, a German engineer, with inventing the automobile around 1885. Other inventors and engineers followed with their own designs. From the 1880s to 1910, automobiles were mostly a luxury for the wealthy. They were made by hand and were often customized for the buyer.
Henry Ford was a businessman and engineer, and he revolutionized the way cars were made. Ford used the assembly line to produce one model of car with basic features, allowing him to manufacture cars faster at a more affordable cost.
During this time, North Carolina got its own Ford factory. Ford began assembling cars in Charlotte in 1914. And in 1924, they built a new plant in the city. It was the largest automobile factory in the South. It operated there until 1932 when it closed during the Great Depression.
During the first decades of the 20th century, the middle class was growing in the U.S. and more people could afford to buy a car, especially because they were being produced so quickly and affordably.
The invention of the car changed American society in many ways. People had more freedom. They were able to go more places in their leisure time. For the first time, people could travel freely and easily to other parts of the country and between cities.
More cars on the road also paved the way (pun intended) for the development of highways.
By 1920, there were more than 5 million cars in America.
The Future Is Electric
Knowing a bit of the history of the automobile, it’s interesting to imagine its future.
A disruptive energy shift is taking place on a global scale right now, from gas-powered, internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles (EV).
Many would be surprised to learn that the invention of EV technology is not new.
Electric motors were used as far back as the early 1800s.
One known electric motor was created in 1828 by Anyos Jedlik. He made a small model car that could move on its own via a small electric motor. Sometime between 1832 and 1839, a larger electric motor created by Scottish inventor Robert Anderson was used to drive a carriage.
Various innovators and inventors would improve the EV design throughout the years, until we arrive at the present day, with the global economy pushing the automotive industry into a revolutionary energy shift to EV.
Today, electric vehicles are more popular than they’ve ever been, and many can travel good distances using batteries. The Tesla Roadster became available in 2008. While far from perfect, it was able to cover more than 200 miles on one charge of the battery. It was followed quickly by the Mitsubishi i-MiEV in Japan. The development and release of these two vehicles, but especially of the Tesla, marked the beginning of the modern EV period.
Other major car companies quickly began working on their electric cars. Many already produced hybrids, so the technology was already widespread. GM released the Chevrolet Volt, while Nissan released the Leaf, an all-electric five-door hatchback.
Projected growth for the electric vehicle market is expected to reach 233.9 million units by 2027.
Another Disruptive Technology: Labeling for Electric Vehicle Plastics
You may not think of labels as a “disruptive technology,” but you’d be surprised.
Labels play a major role throughout the lifespan of a vehicle. This ranges from aiding the movement of parts through the supply chain to providing critical information about safety, maintenance, and vehicle usage.
Critical labeling is included throughout most vehicles. They are featured on visors, under the hood, on car charger warnings, and various labels on the interior and exterior of every vehicle that is manufactured. Labeling is also important on automotive dunnage used in the shipment of vital vehicle components.
In fact, the process of choosing and designing logistics labels happens well before vehicle production takes place. The design and placement of these labels is carefully planned to support the production process.
Unfortunately for the ever growing and sophisticated automotive industry, labeling standards have not kept up with modern times. Although polymers have replaced steel and aluminum as the primary material used in manufacturing, adhesion testing for standard requirements are still being conducted using steel and aluminum, not polymer (per ASTM D6252).
This presents a problem for manufacturers who require durable labeling of components that are now being made from polymers. Specifically, olefin-based polymers.
Polymers are durable, affordable, and chemically inert. They can withstand a lot of abuse, chemicals, and constant UV and weather exposure, which makes them ideal for many automotive applications. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to label them. Their low surface energy (similar to that of Teflon™) means nothing wants to stick to them and they inherently reject all typical labeling methods.
Since label testing standards have not kept up with the increased use of olefin-polymers but are centered around adhesion to steel and aluminum surfaces, the automotive industry is largely unaware that a solution specifically engineered for olefin-polymers exists.
Originally invented for the rotational molding industry, Polymer Fusion Labeling technology was then adapted to the faster-pace, high-volume injection molding industry.
The superpower of Polymer Fusion Labels lies not only in what they do have, but in what they don’t have.
They do not use inks, substrates, or even adhesives.
“No adhesive?” “So how do they stick?”
The answer? They don’t. They fuse.
Polymer Fusion Labeling For EV Plastics
Why is Polymer Fusion Labeling becoming the preferred labeling solution for major automotive brands such as Ford and General Motors?
Inks, substrates, coatings, and adhesives are all materials designed to help labels stick to a low energy surface. But they can’t accomplish it (due to the factors we discussed in the previous section). These materials are incompatible with olefin-based polymers.
Polymer Fusion Labels were engineered specifically to solve the problem of labeling olefin plastics for life. They are made of only 100% compatible polymer material that fuses into the subsurface of the automotive plastic part, becoming quite literally like a tattoo for that part. The label cannot ever be separated from the plastic part.
Polymer Fusion Labeling technology take on all the same inherent characteristics that plastic possesses … they become inherently resistant to UV/weather exposure, dirt, grime, oil, fuel, solvents, chemicals, pressure washing, and more. All of which are found in an automotive setting. They can stand up to repeated abuse without ever fading, cracking, peeling, and remain pristine and completely legible for the life of the part. The label and the automotive plastic part become one solid piece, with no change in durability or structural integrity.
Because Polymer Fusion labels are made of the same material as the olefin automotive component itself, they may also present an opportunity to eliminate unnecessary processes from your production line. They do not require any product outgassing, or special surface treatments such as corona/plasma treating. Those are all methods designed to help labels stick to an olefin surface, that ultimately become bottlenecks.
Polymer Fusion Labeling is an easy to use and repeatable process which helps to reduce scrap and eliminate the need for additional processing that is normally associated with traditional labeling methods like pad printing or pressure sensitive decals.
Polymer Fusion Labels are trusted by and currently utilized on over 21 vehicle platforms worldwide. They are ideal for a variety of automotive applications, including:
- Under the Hood
- Battery Components
- Car Charger Components
- Automotive Dunnage Containers
- Any Olefin Based Plastic Requiring a Permanent Label
If you are experiencing issues with labeling automotive plastics, are interested in reducing scrap rate or eliminating processes like flame treating of parts before they are labeled, please reach out to us at 928-634-8888, or contact us here today!