Management & Operations

Optare selects thermoplastic bumpers

Posted on March 1, 2005

Optare, the British subsidiary of North American Bus Industries, chose a thermoplastic alloy called Kydex for the bumpers on its new Alero bus, instead of painted glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), the industry standard.

Optare selected the new material for its smooth appearance and lasting durability. The company chose a streamlined look that differs from that of a standard transport van. The front and rear bumpers are made of Kydex sheets with acrylic caps, and both components are mid-tone gray to complement the Alero’s various color options.

Optare worked with Paul Rhodes, business development manager for Thompson Plastics Group, to decide on an appropriate material. “We explained that we wanted to produce large impact-resistant components having integral color,” said Kevin Saville, body engineering manager for Optare. “Paul Rhodes suggested a variety of materials, including several acrylic-cut PVS materials, but we all agreed that Kydex¨ provided what we needed all around.”

Glenn Saint, technical director at Optare, said the reason Kydex was chosen was its ability to withstand significantly more impact than standard GRP. The material is also through-colored so scratches are inconspicuous. “Most of the damage to buses having low ground clearance results from driving over curbs,” Saint said. “The frame structure of the Alero allows the side panels to deflect between 1 to 3 inches and the Kydex material tolerates that amount of deformation.”

The panels are designed with a quick-release system manufactured by 3M for easy attachment and replacement. The Dual Lock re-closable fasteners hold the top of the panels to the body, and a quick-release fastening system from Southco attaches the bottom of the panels to the frame.

Neil Widdowfield, sales director for Optare’s Mobility Products, said the company’s customers have been satisfied with the overall appearance of the vehicle and the bumpers’ durability.

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