IACMI project to focus on recycled fibers in Class A parts

The project, led by BASF, will work to develop materials and process for the use of recycled discontinuous fibers and thermoplastics in an induction heating-based process for the manufacture of Class A automotive body panels.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI, Knoxville, TN, US), a 150-plus-member public/private consortium committed to increasing domestic production capacity and manufacturing jobs across the U.S. composites industry, announced on Sept. 28 that it is launching a project to develop processing and material technologies to create Class A surface finishes for the automotive industry via induction heating. The project is led by BASF Corp. (Wyandotte, MI, US), with a team that includes Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL, Oak Ridge, TN) and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The goal of this technical collaboration is to develop processing and material technologies that provide automotive Class A surface appearance and suitable mechanical properties for automotive body panels by using a thermoplastic resin matrix reinforced with discontinuous recycled carbon fiber.

“Thermoplastic materials offer many advantages in reducing weight, cost and recyclability, but have not been used often in Class A surface finished because of the industry’s challenge to create products through injection molding that do not have a proper gap control and are not warped through the process,” says Soydan Ozcan, senior R&D scientist at ORNL and IACMI Composite Recycling Lead. “Through this project, end-of-life carbon fiber composite and scrap can be utilized in a high-volume production stream that possesses significant potential for energy savings, carbon footprint reduction and for developing global composites recycling.”

The method developed by this process will open new opportunities for carbon fiber integration into the automotive field. “By utilizing advanced thermoplastic processing technologies, this project will allow us to lead the integration of recycled carbon fibers into Class A surfaces in the automotive industry,” says BASF strategic marketing manager, Mohamed Bouguettaya.

“Integrating discontinuous recycled carbon fibers into automotive Class A surface finishes is a significant opportunity in the composites field. The key learnings from this project could help the automotive industry to more effectively design quality, ready-to-market surfaces, while also reducing cost and weight in vehicle production,” says Uday Vaidya, IACMI CTO and UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing.