Owens Corning Expects Substantial Growth in Breakthrough Truck Applications

16 September 1999

Owens Corning Expects Substantial Growth in Breakthrough Truck Applications
    TOLEDO, Ohio, Sept. 15 -- Owens Corning said
today it expects substantial growth in the use of composite materials for one
of the automotive industry's newest applications -- pickup truck boxes.  The
company predicts the use of composites in this single application for light
trucks to grow from zero today to more than 30,000 metric tons annually within
the next five years.
    In August, both General Motors and Ford said they would introduce truck
models having pickup boxes made with advanced composite materials that resist
dents, scratches and rust -- problems that have traditionally plagued pickup
truck owners.  The boxes are the largest composite parts ever made for light
trucks.
    "Composite truck boxes will change the mindset for using advanced glass
fiber reinforcements and engineered polymers in the automotive market," said
Heinz Otto, president, Owens Corning Composites Systems Business.
    "Automotive engineers have used composite materials to achieve design
objectives, save weight and consolidate parts," continued Otto.  "The new
truck applications highlight two additional attributes of composite materials
-- strength and corrosion resistance.  Pickup truck boxes will show consumers
the tough side of composites."
    The first Ford truck to include a composite box is the 2001 Explorer Sport
Trac, a vehicle combining features of both pickup trucks and sport utility
vehicles.  Building on the Explorer platform, the vehicle will have four doors
and a 4-foot-long pickup box.  The vehicle will also include an optional
composite tonneau cover, traditionally an after-market accessory.
    Explorer Sport Trac vehicles will be available in dealer showrooms early
next year.
    Composite pickup boxes for the Explorer Sport Trac will be molded by The
Budd Company at North Baltimore, Ohio.  Sheet molding compound, incorporating
advanced glass fibers from Owens Corning, will be prepared at Budd's facility
in Van Wert, Ohio.
    Ford already uses composite materials on a number of its cars and trucks,
including the Mustang, Windstar and full-size F150 pickup.
    The world leader in glass fiber composite systems, Owens Corning helped
pioneer the technology that led to the new pickup truck boxes.
    Dick McKechnie, automotive market segment leader at Owens Corning, says
the pickup truck boxes are a great example of Owens Corning's System
Thinking(TM) approach to the market.
    "Providing unique solutions which have their foundation in composite
materials is the strategic value that Owens Corning brings to its partners in
the automotive world," said McKechnie.  "Our work with the automakers and
their direct suppliers enabled us to tailor our technology and glass to help
make a better product for the truck buyer.  It is an example of how our System
Thinking approach allows us to extend the value we bring to all customers from
the molder to the automaker to the final consumer."
    McKechnie said the new pickup truck boxes would encourage engineers to
look again for ways they can use composites.  He says floor pans and front-end
supports are likely the next candidates for development.
    "Working with auto manufacturers and their Tier 1 suppliers to develop new
materials technology has been a tradition at Owens Corning," continued
McKechnie.  "The company helped develop the Stout-Scarab in 1945, the first
car to have a glass fiber-reinforced body.  Although the car never saw
commercial production, it paved the way for the production models that
appeared later."
    To make the first large automotive body parts with consistent quality,
Owens Corning helped develop sheet-molding compound in the 1950s.  As its name
suggests, sheet-molding compound combines resin and glass fibers in sheet
form, which is then used to load presses and mold parts.
    Pushing the size envelope to include still larger parts, Owens Corning
developed technology in the 1980s designed to produce large glass fiber
preforms using innovative automation.
    Originally developed as the Programmable Powdered Preform Process (P4),
the technology was introduced by Owens Corning to the transportation market in
1993.  P4 was later selected by the Automotive Composites Consortium (an
alliance of the "Big 3" automakers) for prototype development scale-up.  The
technology was installed at the National Composites Center in Kettering, Ohio,
to produce pick up truck box preforms as part of a composite pickup box
manufacturing demonstration program.
    Preforming is a method of placing and configuring glass fibers to
replicate the shape of the finished part.  The fiberglass preform is then
placed in the mold and combined with resin to produce the molded part.  Using
sheet molding compound, preforms and other advanced processes, automakers
around the world today incorporate thousands of composite parts in their
vehicles.
    Owens Corning is a world leader in building materials and composites
systems.  The company had 1998 sales of $5 billion and employs approximately
20,000 worldwide.  For more information, please visit Owens Corning's Web site
at http://www.owenscorning.com .



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