Materials in Automotive Bumpers
Modern automobiles use many safety standards designed to reduce the chances of serious injury or death. One such element is the bumper. Vehicle bumpers are located on both the front and rear ends and are designed
to absorb shock in low speed collisions. This is intended to minimize damage to other important components of the vehicle. Bumpers are also being designed to reduce injury in pedestrian accidents.
When considering the design of a bumper, one of the most critical factors to consider is the material that it is made from. There are many aspects that come into play when automotive manufacturers determine what material or combination of materials to use. Cost is generally one of the largest concerns associated with the design, as are aesthetics, weight, and government safety standards. The higher the safety rating of a bumper is, the higher the cost of the bumper will be. The manufacturer will pass this cost on to the consumer. One way to keep the cost down is to use cheaper materials. Bumpers on cars made decades ago were almost exclusively made from steel, as this was the one material most readily available. It proved to be the strongest choice and was the easiest material to work with and form into a bumper. Modern advances in materials, along with the new government guidelines introduced in the late 1970s, paved a road for automotive manufacturers to make safer and lighter weight bumpers.
In modern vehicles, manufacturers use a wide array of materials. Many combinations of materials are used, such as steel, aluminum, plastics and fiberglass composites. The steel and aluminum is generally used for the bumper supports, or the framework that attaches the bumper to the frame of the vehicle. Plastics can be used as a cover for the bumper as modern injection molding processes allow for quick and easy manufacturing while assuring the desired aesthetics are met. These materials can also be used inside of the bumper as an energy absorbing device and is usually created from polypropylene or a plastic honeycomb. Fiberglass, while generally more expensive than plastics, can also be utilized as a material choice for bumper covers. Fiberglass is easier to customize and is lightweight.
There is no doubt that automotive bumpers have evolved through the years. Their safety has increased as modern advances in materials have changed, allowing for easier production, higher safety ratings, and more affordable pricing.