If you have traveled within North America on mass transportation in the last 3 to 4 decades, specifically on rail or bus, then you are familiar with the typical outdated interior layout and design of most transportation vehicles in the USA.
Often you will see off-white or beige-colored fiberglass wall paneling, seating, and window masking, likely chipped or cracked at many corners or high traffic areas. Some of these components may be constructed from scratched and dented sheet metal with exposed fasteners and attachment points. The design features are lacking aesthetic appeal or any integrated technology. Boxy, straight-lined components cover the interior with large gaps between mated parts. This is all standard fare for commuter mass transit, railcar, or passenger bus interiors and has been for the past 30 years or more.
Most of the transportation interiors in the USA, except for aerospace, were designed and manufactured in the mid to later part of the last century. These interior components were most commonly manufactured from materials such as fiberglass and sheet metal. The old parts are heavy, require frequent maintenance due to durability issues, and lack modern design aesthetics. In short, the time has arrived for major updates and upgrades in this market.
In fact, over the past few years, the upgrade trend has already started as industry and environmental compliance standards have evolved and the demand has increased for more efficient, lightweight, and modern passenger transportation vehicles and interior designs. Rail, bus, and other mass transit manufacturers are now looking to take advantage of available new processes and innovations to develop the next generation of transportation interiors.
Thermoplastic materials and the plastic thermoforming process are uniquely suited to the emerging needs of the transportation interiors industry, offering extremely lightweight and durable materials that meet industry standards such as FST, Doc 90, and FMVSS 302. The thermoforming process also enables a much higher design flexibility for interior components at a very attainable cost. Features such as undercuts, advanced tooling, and tooling imbedded surface finish options make benefits like complex geometric parts, closely mated component assemblies, surface texturing, and a wide variety of paint free pre-colored material options available to designers and engineers. Such benefits are not achievable or cost prohibitive with many other manufacturing processes.
This blog and our email newsletters will take a deeper look into plastic thermoforming and its applications for the transportation interiors industry over the next few months.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, please download our Fiberglass to Plastic Thermoforming Comparison and Conversion Guide, Metal to Plastic Thermoforming Comparison and Conversion Guide, or Heavy Gauge Plastic Thermoforming Process and Design Guide for more comprehensive information on plastic thermoforming capabilities and solutions.