European R&D project targets carbon fiber for high-volume automotive

The project, called HIVOCOMP, focuses on advancing the state-of-the-art of composite materials technology to bring it closer to mass-production for automotive applications.

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A new European research and development (R&D) project called HIVOCOMP (advanced materials enabling high-volume road transport applications of lightweight structural COMPosite parts) aims to develop new materials that will bring carbon fiber composites to high-volume automotive applications.

The collaborative research project focuses on advancing the state-of-the-art of composite materials technology to bring it closer to mass-production for automotive applications. HIVOCOMP will last four years and intends to significantly speed up the composites production process, a key factor for the establishment of plastics in the commercial vehicles market.

Project partners include three large European automotive OEMs (VW, Daimler, CRF), suitcase manufacturer Samsonite, four highly specialised suppliers in the field of composite materials and their applications, and six leading universities that constitute the cutting edge of composite materials research in Europe.

HIVOCOMP will develop further two material systems that show unique promise for cost-effective, high-volume production of high-performance carbon fiber composite parts: advanced polyurethane (PU) thermoset matrix materials and thermoplastic PP-based and PA6-based self-reinforced polymer composites with continuous carbon fiber reinforcements.

The performance, production cost and recyclability of new carbon fiber composite materials systems will be thoroughly tested and benchmarked to ensure the results reach and exceed cost, safety and environmental targets. Validated demonstrator parts will be produced in 2013, ensuring the large-scale societal impact of the innovations.

The project puts primary focus on the passenger cars, including hybrid and fully electric platforms now entering the market, but it has identified spin-off applications in other transport-related sectors as well.

HIVOCOMP launched officially in October 2010 and is funded under the topic NMP-2009-2.5-1, “Light high-performance composites” of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. Project coordinator is Prof. Ignaas Verpoest of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Project partners include: VW, Daimler, Fiat Research Centre, Samsonite, K.U. Leuven, University of Leeds, University of Perugia, T.U. Munich, E.P.F. Lausanne, Fraunhofer ICT-A, Huntsman Polyurethanes, Airborne Composites, ESI Group, Benteler SGL, Propex Fabrics and Bax & Willems Consulting.

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