Ford, DowAksa to develop automotive-grade carbon fiber

The agreement will facilitate the companies’ efforts in conjunction with the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation to overcome the high cost and limited availability of carbon fiber in automotive applications.

Ford (Deerborn, MI, US) and DowAksa (Istanbul, Turkey) have established a joint development agreement to formally accelerate research on the high-volume manufacturing of carbon fiber for automotive applications.

The agreement is between Ford Motor, Ford Global Technologies and DowAksa, the 50/50 joint venture between Dow Chemical and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş. It will combine DowAksa’s feedstock capacity, carbon fiber conversion and downstream intermediates production capabilities with Ford's knowledge in design, engineering and high-volume manufacturing. The goal is to produce materials that make cost-effective carbon fiber composite parts that are much lighter than steel but meet automotive strength requirements.

As announced in January, the companies will be part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced by President Obama as part of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The JDA will facilitate the companies’ efforts in conjunction with IACMI to overcome the high cost and limited availability of carbon fiber in automotive applications.

"This joint development agreement reinforces Ford’s commitment to our partnership with DowAksa, and our drive to bring carbon fiber components to the broader market," said Mike Whitens, director of vehicle enterprise sciences for Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

The JDA allows the companies to collaboratively generate new, lower-cost automotive grades of carbon fiber that can be applied to aligned and random fiber formats while maintaining compatibility with both thermoset and thermoplastic matrices. The agreement also includes a pathway for potential extension of development collaboration into a commercial manufacturing partnership.

“Automotive manufacturers’ use of carbon fiber composites has been hindered by the absence of both high- volume manufacturing methods and affordable material formats,” said DowAska Vice Chairman Mehmet Ali Berkman. “This partnership combines the individual strengths of each company to target these challenges.”