CW Blog

Composites 2020: A multitude of markets


The manufacturing world likes to think of composites fabrication as a single, global entity that operates to serve its customers’ needs with a variety of highly engineered parts and structures. In reality, however, the composites industry is an amalgamation of many highly vertical markets — aerospace, automotive, marine, consumer, wind, etc. — that consume composite materials in a variety of different ways. This usage is driven by part performance requirements, cost thresholds, regulations and customer demand. For instance, the material, process and cost parameters in commercial aerospace manufacturing are substantially different than the material, process and cost parameters in recreational boatbuilding.

Read More
Continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites enable wheel blade for all-electric SUV


Spoke-like blade inserts for automotive wheels, also known as wheelblades, have become a popular tool for design engineers looking to boost the aesthetics and aerodynamics of the wheel. While carbon fiber is a popular material choice for these non-structural parts,  many designers are looking to showcase the material in different ways besides the traditional woven look that is typically used for exterior components and accent areas. Covestro (Leverkusen, Germany; Shanghai, China) recently announced that its Maezio continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) composites are being used in the production of a composite wheeblade used on the aluminum wheels for the ES6 and ES8 all-electric SUVs manufactured by NIO (Shanghai, China). The material gives OEMs and designers a new alternative to the traditional woven look of carbon fiber, offering a unique appearance with unidirectional carbon fiber optics and a variety of finishing options.

Read More
One-piece, one-cure, infused carbon fiber wheel is ready to roll

Carbon fiber wheels offer a range of benefits by reducing rotational inertia and the combined mass — known as the unsprung mass — of a vehicle’s wheels, suspension and other directly connected components not supported by the suspension. This reduction in rotational inertia and unsprung mass, which can be as high as 50%, typically results in faster acceleration with less effort, reduced braking distance, improved handling due to better contact with the road (mechanical grip) and reduced road noise.

But the price tags on carbon fiber wheels — both hybrid and all-composite — have kept them out of reach of many consumers. With the most affordable priced at more than $10,000 for a set, the wheels are likely to only be found on very high-end sports cars and luxury vehicles. Several wheel companies, however, recognize the market potential for a lower-priced carbon fiber wheel and are working toward finding a solution. Approaches vary from the materials used to the way wheel components are manufactured and combined. Some combine carbon fiber components with aluminum for a hybrid wheel. Some create wheels from prepreg. 

Read More



Read More

By: Dale Brosius 1/1/2020

Composites 4.0: Future or fad?

In March 2015 I penned a column against incremental thinking in moving composites forward, proposing that we focus on developing processes with inherent measuring capability to identify materials variability in situ, and modify layup or molding conditions on the fly to improve consistency. In February 2016, I envisioned an idealized future where such upstream process sensing was sent in real time to end-to-end simulation tools that could make automated intelligent decisions and make process changes without human intervention. At the time, terms like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twins, machine learning and artificial intelligence were starting to enter the lexicon of manufacturing and linking to one another under the banner of “Industry 4.0.” I just wasn’t using it yet.

In April 2016 I attended the Hannover Fair in Germany, which I believe to be the center of gravity of all things Industry 4.0 each year, and saw the possibilities of this, the fourth industrial revolution. My July 2016 column, titled “Get ready for Composites 4.0,” recounted what I saw in Hannover and why composites manufacturing, perhaps more so than centuries old industries like steel and textiles, stood to benefit greatly from implementing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Read More