CW Blog

So, you want to make automotive composites . . .

High-rate manufacture of structural automotive parts has long been the Holy Grail of the composites manufacturing industry. That highly coveted day is, by all accounts, not quite here yet. By the same token, however, composites are also no longer restricted to use in exorbitantly priced Lamborghinis, McLarens and Ferraris. Today, they are finding application in a variety of parts for several mid-rate production vehicles, and there is promise of more to come.

Fiber, resin and equipment suppliers, meanwhile, have been hard at work developing new products to meet the quality and cycle time demands of automotive OEMs. The result is a highly dynamic autocomposites supply chain that can be dauntingly difficult to monitor and make sense of.

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These three companies believe that thermoplastic composites (TPCs) are the next generation of lightweight-enabling materials, with adoptions and developments growing in industries from electronics to automotive to aerospace. Each partner’s expertise is key. Airborne’s experience in composite parts development and process industrialization is further empowered by Siemen’s digitalization capabilities, which span a complete composites CAD-CAE-CAM chain through to digital factory solutions and digital twin platforms. SABIC offers its UDMAX thermoplastic composite unidirectional tapes, as well as extensive materials knowledge and its own R&D in composites processing and product design. The goal: low cost mass production of thermoplastic composites.

CW interviewed:

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Carbon Fibre Preforms (CFP, Solihull, UK) has spent seven years developing its Rapid Output Controllable Composite Shapes (ROCCS) technology. Using chopped fibers and a very rapid mix and deposition process, it produces flat and net-shaped, fully resin-infused preforms in seconds, which are then compression molded into sheets and parts. The company’s FR.10 products provide a lightweight, cost-effective alternative to metal in applications which must meet stringent fire and temperature requirements. Weighing less than 6 kg/m2, 5mm FR.10 can replaced metal parts weighing hundreds of kg/m2. In testing, it has withstood direct flame and 1200°C, while under load, for 2 hours with no burn-through, and amazingly, provides enough thermal insulation that you can place a bare hand in full contact on the back side during burn tests.

Simon Price is managing director for Carbon Fibre Preforms and Tim Bastow is global business development director. Simon previously led the team behind Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd. “We developed the process, built the line, scaled it to production of 2,000 metric tonnes of recycled fiber per year and then sold it to ELG in 2011,” says Price.

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I have covered Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) for some time, but Cevotec has recently announced multiple developments that expand its capabilities in composites:

Automated production line using multiple Cevotec SAMBA Scale preforming cells (left) for high-volume composites preforming and cevoTape dry fiber and prepreg unidirectional tape (right) for FPP, AFP and ATL processes. SOURCE: Cevotec.

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Falcon Heavy is just the beginning

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched itself into space for the first time ever, marking a new milestone in the private space race era — the successful deployment of a “heavy” class rocket capable of delivering a payload of up to 63.8 MT to low Earth orbit (LEO). Not since the Saturn V in the 1970s has the world launched a rocket of such size and capability. 

It was not difficult, watching video of the Falcon Heavy launch, to be impressed not just by the launch itself — and subsequent delivery of the Tesla Roadster cargo into space — but also the recovery of the two boosters, which landed simultaneously on adjacent landing pads near the Florida coast.

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