Carbon fiber engine block revealed

The four-cylinder carbon fiber composite engine block uses fiber from Toho Tenax America and weighs 45 to 50 percent less than a comparable aluminum block.

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Composite Castings LLC (Palm Beach, Fla.) has developed a new, lightweight carbon fiber composite four-cylinder engine block. Arranged in a V4 configuration, the design was developed by Matti Holtzberg, president and founder of Composite Castings.

Tenax-brand carbon fiber, provided by Toho Tenax America (Rockwood, Tenn.), was chosen as the reinforcement for the base epoxy resin. The resulting high-performance compound is molded into the finished engine block profile using Composite Castings’ proprietary molding process. (Aspects of the process are patented, and patents are pending on other elements.) The process uses low-cost tooling and provides faster cycle times than conventional carbon fiber composite molding methods.

The new engine blocks are 45 to 50 percent lighter than a comparable aluminum block. The weight savings are expected to offer engine builders a significant competitive advantage in the performance-engine business and should to attract interest from the worldwide automotive industry wherever weight reduction has become a critical concern, particularly in hybrid electric cars.

The composite blocks are cast to net shape, which eliminates secondary machining. Using carbon/epoxy in place of metal alloy significantly reduces NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) due to the damping properties of fiber and resin. Further, the composite does not corrode and represents a large reduction in the manufacturing process’ carbon footprint because there is no metal to melt. Also, in comparison to die casting, the tool cost is 50 percent less and the tool life is 5 to 10 times greater. The first block that Composite Castings is casting is intended for the performance engine market, for an aftermarket specialty engine that will be offered as an alternative to the popular Ford Duratec/Mazda MZR inline 4. The carbon fiber composite block weighs 20 lb/9.1 kg less than the stock alloy block. Looking further forward, an entire range of four- and eight-cylinder engine blocks is planned for motor sports and OEM automotive, truck and marine applications.