CW Blog

Multimaterialism is back in the Audi A8

German automaker Audi has become the latest automotive OEM to get into the multimaterial business, reporting extensively on the use of carbon fiber, steel, magnesium and aluminum in the next-generation Audi A8. The multimaterial ethos is expressed most clearly in the Audi Space Frame (ASF, pictured above).

In terms of its overall dimensions, an ultra-high-strength, torsionally rigid rear panel made of CFRP is the largest component in the occupant cell of the new Audi A8, and Audi says it contributes 33% to the torsional rigidity of the total vehicle. To optimally absorb longitudinal and transverse loads as well as shearing force, the part uses six to 19 layers of carbon fiber tapes 50 mm/2.0 inches wide. Audi says it made the part using an automated, direct dry fiber placement process specially developed for this purpose. After the dry fiber is placed, the entire stack is preformed and then molded via high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM). Carbon fibers were supplied by Zoltek (St. Louis, MO, US).

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By: Jeff Sloan 31. March 2017

Happy April 1

Another opportunity to meet, and learn, in Paris

Improvements in materials and processes were present at nearly every stand, with the emphasis on automotive-capable production speeds. And it was apparent that the composites industry is thriving, based not only on well-established suppliers but also on the number of new exhibitors, some with massive stands and clear vertical integration. One notable example was Kangde Composites Co. Ltd. (KDC, Beijing, China), who exhibited its vertically-integrated capabilities and value chain including carbon fiber, fabrics, prepregs, part manufacturing, design and research capabilities. ZAX Technology is KDC’s carbon fiber production plant with a reported annual carbon fiber capacity of 5100 tonnes (15,000 tonnes precursor capacity), located in Langfang, China, close to Beijing. The exhibit also included KDC carbon fabrics and prepregs, in multiple areal weights and weaves and resin types. Also represented was KDX Europe Composites R&D Center and KDX Roding Europe Automobile Design Centre (the latter located near Munich), involved with composite part design and research, for automotive and other applications. The group says it plans to build a huge “Industry 4.0” plant, with an annual capacity of 1.5 million CFRP parts.

Material advancements

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For me, the major themes at JEC were industrialization, thermoplastics and a dramatic increase in technologies and touted capability for Industry 4.0 production. Though I expect to blog more fully and/or publish print articles about the following companies in the near future, here is my tour of highlights from the 2017 JEC World exhibit floor:

Automated Preforming at 10-15 seconds per layer
I first encountered FILL Machine Engineering (Gurten, Austria) when touring nearby FACC (Ried im Innkreis, see my 2014 article). When I asked who supplied all of the automated NDT systems for composites, my tour guide answered, “You don’t know FILL?” I do now. FILL is a family-owned company with 715 employees, a turnover of app. 145 million € and additional facilities in Shanghai, China and Puebla, Mexico. It designs and supplies automated systems for production in metals, wood and plastics, the latter including industrial-scale production lines for composites, polyurethane and particle foam. In composites, FILL has produced units for handling of reinforcements and preforming, molding, machining and testing including NDT.  

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