Experience Composites 2016
A road to success?
I am not long back from the Experience Composites Exhibition, which was held in Messe Augsburg, Germany. It is the first year of the Augsburg show, and given the number of companies exhibiting and attendees, I am sure that it will be a regular fixture in many diaries.
One area which featured heavily, was the automotive sector. In 2015, the use of lightweight materials accounted for over 30% of the global automotive materials market, and this is expected to increase to over 40% within the next ten years! So what material offers the greatest weight saving potential? Unfortunately, its both carbon fibre and carbon composite! I say unfortunate, as carbon materials come with a very significant price premium!
For more widespread use, and thus potential lower cost, carbon fibre and carbon composites do face several challenges. From the writers viewpoint, there are three key factors which are a road-block to the greater utilisation of carbon materials.
- Manufacturing. In today’s mass manufacturing market, carbon composite parts take longer to produce. Cycle times will need to come close to the incumbent technology.
- Recycling. We live in a world of diminishing resources. While it is easy to recycle mild steel and aluminium, the recycling of carbon materials is less understood.
- Repair. This is possibly the most noticeable limitation. Little work has been carried out in this area. Repair processes and methodologies need to be developed to allow automotive manufacturers to greater embrace carbon based materials.
The use of carbon fibre in automotive applications is still an evolving technology, but I would hope that in the foreseeable future, there will be significant opportunities for lightweight technologies.