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Lighter Weight Thermoplastic Parts - Enabled by 3M™ Glass Bubbles

The typical vehicle has 300kg of plastic parts that contribute to vehicle weight. What if you could reduce that without compromising performance or cost requirements?

Our high-strength, low-density 3M glass bubbles are designed to withstand the rigors of intense processing conditions like injection molding and extrusion, while simultaneously reducing part weight by 15% or more over conventional fillers such as calcium carbonate.

  • The science of the sphere.

    Because of their spherical shape and high strength, glass bubbles provide better flow, increased volume loading capacity and easier processing – allowing for more uniform parts with more complex geometries. In addition, they provide better dimensional stability – resisting warping and shrinkage – while shortening cycle times. The small size of the microscopic bubbles allows them to be used in high-gloss, class-A painted automotive parts.

    There’s a 3M glass bubble solution for all your lightweighting applications. Contact us to find out how we can find the optimal balance of performance and cost and help you meet your lightweighting goals.


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Benefits of 3M Glass Bubbles in Automotive Thermoplastics

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    • processing & manufacturing benefits icon
      • Resin reduction and density reduction
      • Increased productivity with 15–25% faster cycle time
      • Survives processing in injection molding and extrusion molding without breakage
      • Improved dimensional stability
      • Reduced warpage and sink marks
      • Increased stiffness
      • Higher filler loading
      • Lower viscosity/improved flow

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    • weight reduction icon

      Low-density glass bubbles allow injection molders to produce parts 15% lighter than those made with conventional fillers. With a true density under 0.70 g/cc and crush strengths over 15,000 psi, 3M glass bubbles iM16K and iM30K high strength-to-weight ratios allows them to survive harsh processing conditions. Their unique shape provides design flexibility and effective density modification to suit any application.

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    • cycle time reduction icon

      In injection molding, long cooling times limit production capacity and increase manufacturing costs. Glass bubbles can drastically shorten mold cycle times by increasing how quickly parts cool in the mold.

      Low-density glass bubbles have a lower volumetric heat capacity than that of most thermoplastic materials, which means heat diffuses far more quickly than talc or glass fiber. Temperatures are reduced by roughly 1.1°C per each weight percent (wt%) of glass bubbles added to the formulation – increasing your production throughput. See visual below of how 3M™ Glass Bubbles enable faster cooling.

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    • dimensional stability icon

      The spherical shape (aspect ratio of 1.0) of glass bubbles often improves the dimensional stability of thermoplastics, demonstrating less thermal expansion warpage and differential shrinkage than conventional fillers. This means you get more consistent, more resilient parts without increasing weight.


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Recommended Products for Thermoplastic Injection Molded Parts

  • 3M™ Glass Bubbles iM16K

    For use in Class A injection molding extrusion and SMCs to reduce final part weight by 15% or more. Has a density of 0.46 g/cc and an isostatic crush strength of 16,000 psi.

  • 3M™ Glass Bubbles iM30K

    For ultra lightweight structural SMCs with part densities <1.0 g/cc and 40% average weight reduction.


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Recommended Products for Extrusion and Blow Molded Parts

  • 3M™ Glass Bubbles iM16K

    For use in Class A injection molding extrusion and SMCs to reduce final part weight by 15% or more. Has a density of 0.46 g/cc and an isostatic crush strength of 16,000 psi.

  • 3M™ Glass Bubbles S32HS

    Has a density of 0.32 g/cc and an isostatic crush strength of 6,000 psi.


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See how glass bubbles cool it off.

Replacing conventional fillers with low-density 3M glass bubbles can significantly reduce cooling times in injection molded thermoplastics, reducing cycle times while maintaining mechanical integrity.

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SMC weight savings infographic

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Resources


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Technical Papers and Case Studies

Explore the experiments and real-world applications of 3M glass bubbles in injection molded thermoplastics.


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3M glass bubbles are supported by our global sales, technical and customer service resources. Contact us for more information, including formulation assistance or questions about a specific application.

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