Speaker Interview, Bruce Spivey, Lear Corporation 

Bruce Spivey headshotIn this speaker spotlight, Conference Producer Fleur Jonker speaks with Bruce Spivey, Principal Engineer, Lear Corporation, about the trend of lightweighting in the automotive industry and how his company is responding.

In his own words, Bruce got into urethane by accident in 1985 after he graduated from NCSU with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then he has consulted for over 35 companies in R&D, chemistry, tooling, manufacturing, process engineering and commercial issues. Bruce is currently working with the Global Foam Team at Lear Corporation in Farwell, MI.

Please tell us about your role as Principal Engineer at Lear. What are your key focus areas?

My primary focus is on the polyurethane chemistry for Lear’s molded seating foam regarding development, new product screening and innovation. I also develop PU chemistry for our other system applications: I-skin, energy management, elastomer, etc.

What excites and challenges you about your work?

I like to develop new chemistry and processes for new products; for example, the newer high-molecular-weight polyols provide an exciting challenge to improve current products and create new applications. Switching blowing agents in integral skin provided unique new challenges. What I find most interesting about urethane is how you learn something in one area, such as elastomer, that you can then apply to foam or adhesives. 

You are participating in the discussion on lightweighting efforts in the automotive industry and the potential for foams to support this trend. In what ways is the automotive industry trying to achieve lightweighting in its vehicles?

Car companies are starting to challenge the accepted norms of seating foams and requesting more in the way of performance and properties. Currently Europe is moving in the direction of lowering MDI seating foam densities and profiles to save weight and money. We are looking at new polyols to reduce weight and improve properties. The challenges are always technical. With respect to large-molecular-weight polyols, once a solution is understood, it also needs to be commercially available. In Asia, we see more effort and development on large-MW polyols. They started with somewhat of a clean slate and less sunk capital.  

In terms of (automotive) industry news, what development, announcement or otherwise has stood out most to you this year?

Two things: 

1) I think skepticism over autonomous vehicles is finally in short supply. This fundamental change will create new opportunities, as has been seen this year in new cockpit designs.

 2) Even though they have been out there for a while, I believe the release of the Tesla patents creates a fundamental change. In the new modern age of globalization, companies really do not like to compete. They would rather minimize risks and share predictable markets. Releasing the patents is an attempt to overcome barrier to entry into the automotive market and accelerate the development of support infrastructure.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at Conference @ Foam Expo 2018. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to at the show?

I really appreciate the fact that it incorporates chemical suppliers, manufacturers, equipment companies and the entire cross-section of the industry. It is a great chance to see everyone, catch up with what people are working on and share ideas. Truly a tremendous networking opportunity.

Bruce Spivey spoke at the 'Examining the potential for foams in Lightweighting efforts in the automotive industry' session at Foam Expo North America 2018.