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Media Release

May 20 2011

Great science delivers automotive innovation to SA

UniSA plays a key role in the development of the world’s first fully plastic surface automotive mirror.In a testament to great science and strong industry and research community and government collaboration, South Australia will be the state that delivers the world’s first fully plastic surface automotive mirror – thanks in part to world leading research by UniSA

The mirror was showcased at the launch of a new advanced manufacturing facility at SMR Automotive, Lonsdale on Thursday May 19, which was opened by Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr.

Senator Carr said the mirror was a great example of the way Australia can specialise in a niche product and take new ideas to the world.

The new mirror, developed jointly by UniSA’s Mawson and Ian Wark Research Institutes in collaboration with SMR Automotive and the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Manufacturing (AutoCRC) , is much lighter than conventional glass mirrors and will be manufactured in SMR’s Adelaide based facility.

UniSA’s research team had a key role in the development of the new mirror by pioneering an innovative coating system and process for plastic surfaces.

Associate Director of the Mawson Institute, Associate Professor Peter Murphy says the strength of the product lies in an innovative multi-layer coating design.

“The coating layers - including a reflective mirror layer, an abrasion resistant layer and a capping layer to prevent environmental damage – combined, are less than one tenth the thickness of a human hair,” Prof Murphy says.

“Through clever materials engineering, the plastic mirror out-performs glass in terms of abrasion resistance and environmental stability.

“The new plastic mirror has many advantages over glass. Its manufacturing process is cleaner and greener than conventional automotive mirrors as traditional electroplating processes used to apply the mirror layer have been eliminated. And being made of plastic it is also safer in the event of a vehicle collision.

“Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of this fruitful research collaboration is that now that we know how to develop and apply this technology successfully, we can see many other sectors where the thin film coating process could be used – including in key sectors such as defence, aerospace and biomedical industries.”

Prof Murphy said the collaboration that has seen the development of what is now a new and export- ready product will continue in South Australia.

“SMR will manufacture the product locally, producing up to eight per cent of the global automotive market’s needs for rear view mirrors,” he says.

“We have strong and productive working relationships that see scientists and industry professionals working side by side to make the imagined a reality.

“That energy and level of innovation is not only inspiring for all involved, but also of enormous benefit to the South Australian economy and the up-skilling and transformation of our local manufacturing base.”

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