The Enlighten Award in Review – Week 9: Dow Automotive Systems

22nd May 2015 by David Mason

Last week, I took a look back at Dow Automotive Systems’ first of two entries to the 2014 Enlighten Award where the company’s new chemical adhesive product produced better mechanical joining thus allowing weight removal from the overall body.  This week, we’re going to look at Dow’s second entry which was the runner-up in last year’s award.

There has been many headline grabbing stories coming out of the automotive market in recent years about the switch from steel to aluminium as a lightweight alternative. Companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and Ford have switch to aluminium for the frames of some of their hallmark vehicles. Aluminium has considerable weight advantages but brings with it its own challenges. One such challenge is the extra costs involved in not only acquiring the material but also treating before it can be used.

Like its first entry, Dow’s runner-up nomination concerned its BETAMATE™ two-part epoxy structural adhesive. This time however, the company highlighted the adhesive’s potential to bond untreated aluminium by eliminating the need for additional surface treatments (abrasion, coatings, primers etc).

Dow highlighted that this technology represents an industry-first material engineered to enable a new automated robotic process for untreated aluminium bonding.

In an example of the potential benefits of the adhesive, Dow pointed to a recent application on a truck where BETAMATE allowed the manufacture to make efficient use of aluminium and reduce the weight of a cab structure by 20 lbs, despite being significantly larger in size than the previous cab structure (2.1m wide vs 1.9m wide).

Instead of an expected cost increase, there is actually a saving enabled by this BETAMATE structural adhesive. The combined direct and indirect cost avoidance savings due to no surface preparation on oily untreated aluminium surfaces is estimated at $1 million per year or $53 per truck.

Dow claimed the runner-up prize for this entry because of the importance of cost effectively joining these new lighter weight alternative materials.  Manufacturers can accept some material cost increases while using these materials due to the weight reduction potential and overall impact on MPG and CO2 performance.  What they cannot accept is significant changes to their manufacturing processes and timing.  In Dow’s entry, the company presented a product that could cancel out some of these disadvantages and potentially open up the use of aluminium to more automotive manufacturers.

The 2015 Enlighten Award is open for nominations now. Find out more.


Dow’s 2014 Runner Up Nomination (Click to View Larger)