Car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, and Lamborghini have launched carbon composite development programs, and manufacturers of electric vehicles (EVs) have followed suit. Meanwhile, the Society of Automotive Engineers International has published its first book on automotive carbon-fiber composites, yet another indication that the material is being taken seriously for more mainstream vehicles.
Earlier this year, Teijin developed an EV concept car with a body structure made entirely of components manufactured with the company's proprietary carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP). The car weighs only 47 kilograms, or 103.4 pounds, approximately one-fifth the weight of a conventional automobile body.
In a related move, Teijin also announced the opening of a pilot plant for fully integrated production of components made of the company's CFRTP material. The plant, which will focus on Teijin's process, will be located in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, on the premises of its Matsuyama factory, and operations are expected to begin in the middle of 2012. The company expects the plant to accelerate its commercialization of CFRTP components for mass-produced automobiles, as well as other industrial uses that may require less structural strength. To date, Teijin has focused its automotive carbon-fiber products on high-end and specialty applications.
This appears to be a significant commitment on GM's part to advance the use of carbon-fiber composites in their product development and manufacturing processes. At some point, it would seem logical that the other automotive giants will do the same. Perhaps then, it's the tipping point?
Ann, do you happen to know if this an exclusive partnership with Tejin or is that company able to forge similar partnerships with other auto makers?
TJ, I couldn't agree more. The potential volumes achievable from automotive manufacturing should help catapult carbon fiber composites into the mainstream for several industries, with potential applications in aerospace, military and naval vehicles and aircraft.
Beth, Teijin didn't want to divulge any more details. However, reading between the lines, the fact that the company opened a separate pilot plant in Japan, mentioned in the last paragraph, not related to the GM deal, makes me think the GM pact is more of a co-development relationship and non-exclusive, although there's been no mention of either exclusivity or non-exclusivity. Other statements in press releases and on Teijin's site sound like they want to make their material in high volumes for the auto industry as a whole.
Got it. It would makes sense over time for auto makers like GM to make investments or go beyond non-exclusive partnerships at some point as the use of carbon-fiber becomes more prevalent in automobiles. Better economies, I would think.
Chuck, I agree, I just noted in a different article's thread that It seems everyone I'm talking to lately, whether composite makers, adhesive makers, coatings suppliers or even machine vision hardware vendors, are mentioning this as the driving force behind the trends impacting their products. And I think this time the automakers really mean it.
Please don't comment on this subject regarding aircraft and autos in the same breath. What works for cars at ground level doesn't always work for multi-passenger aircraft at 30,000 feet and above! Although thermoplastic vs themoset has advantages, the fibres being built into the matrix are the strength carriers....thermoplastics will become brittle at low temperatures and high altitudes, both circumstances that simply don't exist in the automobile use.Besides aircraft users are looking at 25 years minimum lifespan and a lot of pressurizing and depressurizing takes place over that period of time.
I recognize that automotive and aerospace requirements differ substantially.
That being said, as the automotive manufacturers provide a big push on carbon graphite, after intial price spikes from demand, the economy of scale should eventually bring the cost of the raw fibers down. This lower raw material cost could help it be a more financially attractive option; even if, many other applications still require thermosets.
Additionally more thermoplastic carbon graphite may find uses in more climate controlled applications such as seat or interior pieces of aircraft.
Furthermore, as more research and techniques for repair are developed, it opens the door for more maintanance friendly repair. Clearly, this is still not a well defined path . . . yet.
David, you captured what I think some of us meant (at least, I did) about how the high volumes of automotive carbon composite manufacturing and repair can help move the whole industry forward, for automotive and aircraft uses alike. Of course, the specific apps are different, but many of the basic manufacturing and repair problems are similar, and some of such knowledge can be horizontally portable.
There is an increasing demand that vehicles are designed with end-of-life recycling as a main driver. Europe is aiming at 95% recovery (by weight) by 2015. I am not a plastics expert so how does the carbon composite fit in here? Is it a recyclable material?
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