When produced manually, individual components could be produced only in steps, and all components were confined to a certain length. Components produced with the combination system can be made continuously, so they can be made much longer. The development partners for this method are Audi and Voith, a mechanical engineering firm.
We've reported before on other efforts to make fiber-reinforced composites easier to use in automotive manufacturing. They include a German team that developed the innovative SpriForm hybrid process that combines injection molding and thermoforming. That process combines thermoformed parts made of continuous, fiber-reinforced thermoplastic sheets with thermoplastic injection-molded parts.
In the US, the White House recently renewed funding for Department of Energy research on replacing cast iron and steel components with lighter materials, including lighter metals and high-strength carbon-fiber composites. The research focuses on predictive modeling of carbon-fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as developing advanced alloys for automotive and heavy-duty engines.
Last year, the Oak Ridge National Laboratories joined with 14 companies to form a carbon-fiber composites consortium. The Oak Ridge Carbon Fiber Composites Consortium is aimed at accelerating the development and commercial application of new, low-cost carbon-fiber and composite materials in several application areas, including automotive.