Glass Bubbles for Automotive Applications

3M™ Glass Bubbles for automotive lightweighting applications

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Strong. Lightweight. Sustainable.

As you look for ways to improve fuel economy and boost battery range, 3M continues to innovate with 3M™ Glass Bubbles. These tiny hollow glass microspheres have been used in plastisol production for years. Today, they can help you reduce the density of your interior and exterior automotive parts without the loss of functionality or strength. This enables weight reduction in many areas of the vehicle. From pillar trim and central consoles to the hood, fenders, battery packs and many other parts, 3M Glass Bubbles have been proven to reduce material weight by as much as 45%.

Download our brochures: 3M™ Glass Bubbles for the automotive market (PDF, 4.4 MB)
3M Glass Bubbles for Electric Vehicle Batteries (PDF, 552 KB)

Select an application

Click on an application to learn more about our solutions and view case studies.

  • Lose weight, not function. 3M Glass Bubbles can withstand harsh compounding and injection-molding processes to produce stable, accurate, and lightweight plastic parts that resist shrinkage and warping.

  • Push the density of SMCs/BMCs below 1.0 g/cc and reduce weight by up to 45% with no loss in dimensional stability. 3M Glass Bubbles can be incorporated into resin systems used in automobiles to help you lighten the load and optimize fuel efficiency.

  • Boost vehicle performance from top to bottom. 3M Glass Bubbles are developed specifically for plastisols used in seam sealants and underbody coatings. They enable durable, lightweight coatings with a Class A paintable finish.

Case Studies and Videos for Automotive 3M Glass Bubbles

For a broad look at what our 3M Glass Bubbles can do for you in the automotive market, download our brochure: 3M™ Glass Bubbles for the Automotive Market (PDF, 4.4 MB)

  • car on assembly line
    3M™ Glass Bubbles for Automotive

    Learn about the benefits of 3M Glass Bubbles in automotive applications.

  • scale diagram showing potential weight savings with lightweighting
    3M™ Glass Bubbles for Automotive Lightweighting

    Learn about the weight savings you can achieve with 3M Glass Bubbles, along with all the benefits beyond lightweighting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • 3M Glass Bubbles are finely dispersed, free-flowing powders consisting of thin-walled hollow glass microspheres. Made of soda-lime-borosilicate glass, 3M Glass Bubbles are chemically inert, nonflammable and water resistant. Strong enough to survive processing, they can be incorporated into a wide range of polymers for density reduction.

    3M Glass Bubbles are spherical particles, which have some of the lowest surface area-to-volume ratio of any shape. This allows for high filler loading that reduces resin demand and can help to lower raw material costs. Their low surface area to volume ratio enables a low-viscosity build, even at higher loadings.

    Unlike glass fiber, standard 3M Glass Bubbles are not treated or coated , although sizing is still an option depending on application needs. Due to their low density, they should be formulated on a volume replacement basis vs. a weight basis.

  • 3M Glass Bubbles are used as additives in an astonishing variety of products. For example, they can be formulated into quick-drying, low-shrinkage spackling and other construction materials. 3M Glass Bubbles reduce the weight of cement used to reinforce oil wells and are used in underwater pipe insulation, helping improve the oil extraction process and making it possible to extract more oil from the bottom of the sea. They provide a wide range of additional benefits in applications ranging from sporting goods to solar heat reflective paint.

    In the automotive industry, weight reduction is an important design factor. That’s why more and more vehicle part suppliers are taking advantage of the lightweighting and performance enhancing capabilities of 3M Glass Bubbles.

    3M Glass Bubbles for use in automotive applications:

    • Sheet Molding Compound / Sheet Molding Composite (SMC)
    • Bulk Molding Compound (BMC)
    • Injection Molded Thermoplastics
    • Reaction Injection Molding (RIM)
    • Reinforced Reaction Injection Molding (RRIM)
    • Sealants, Underbody Coatings, and Adhesives
    • Structural Foams
    • Lightweight Body Fillers
    • Potting Resins
    • Liquid applied sound deadeners (LASD)

    We offer many different grades of 3M Glass Bubbles which can be tailored to your application requirements. Contact us to discover which grade may be best suited for your needs.

  • There are many benefits of using 3M Glass Bubbles, including:

    In manufacturing:

    • Cycle time & mold pressure reductions
    • Dimensional stability improvement
    • Good flowability enables sprayable processing

    In the vehicle:

    • Lightweighting
    • Coefficient of thermal expansion reduction
    • Thermal management
    • Dielectric property improvement

    Some of these other benefits may be more important than lightweighting in some applications within power electronics, EV batteries or even 5G connected electronics.

    3M Glass Bubbles are used to make low density materials and can help to achieve up to 45% weight savings, depending on application. Potential weight savings in common applications include up to 15% in thermoplastics, 40% in seam sealants and underbody coatings, and 45% in sheet or bulk molding composites.

  • While the properties of the main polymer matrix largely determine the properties of the compound, fillers and additives can have significant effects.

    3M Glass Bubbles have many positive impacts on the resin system, including decreasing density, warpage and shrinkage while increasing modulus, heat deflection temperature and scratch resistance. These fillers can impact properties like tensile and flexural strength. Our expert Application Engineers can help you formulate your system to ensure you get the maximum benefit of 3M Glass Bubbles while still maintaining needed physical properties.

  • The benefits of lightweighting have an obvious impact in the automotive sector, including the benefit from the lower cost of shipping light weight parts. In addition, some plastics made with 3M Glass Bubbles may be recyclable and can be re-ground and added in virgin material with negligible effect on properties. The 3M Glass Bubble portion of these plastics raises few, if any, issues during disposal, because they are made from an inert glass and entrapped in the material matrix.

  • 3M Glass Bubbles can occupy up to 6-20x more volume than an equal weight of higher density mineral filler. When formulating, it is very important to think in terms of volume vs. weight percent loading.

    There are many other factors to consider when formulating with 3M Glass Bubbles, including the resin system, other fillers, and final physical properties needed. 3M Glass Bubbles are often used in conjunction with other fillers and/or reinforcers to achieve the optimal performance of the final material.

    Our expert Application Engineers can help you formulate your system to ensure you get the maximum benefit of 3M Glass Bubbles while still maintaining needed physical properties.

    Calculate how much weight you could save with 3M Glass Bubbles.

  • No matter where you are in the world, we have sales & technical support to help you. You can Contact a 3M Expert to get started.

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