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Engineering Materials

One-Piece Carbon Composite Wheel Drives Cars

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Beth Stackpole
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Lightweight and still good looking
Beth Stackpole   8/13/2012 7:58:05 AM
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Looks like a really important development effort. Not only does the wheel help with the lightweighting strategies of automotive OEMs, I'd say it's still pretty good looking. Given that style is such an important element of car selection, I'd say any kind of modifications to materials or appearance in the name of lightweighting vehicles still has to have an appeal to consumers and I think this example satisfies both.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
TJ McDermott   8/13/2012 10:48:02 AM
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Paraphrasing Henry Ford (regarding the Model T) and applying it to carbon fiber:  You can have any color you want, as long as it's black.

I predict riches for the developer of non-black carbon fiber.  Sure, you can paint it.  But if the color is part of the material, a process is saved.  Finishes wear off too.

A better way of saying it might be:  Beauty, in this case, is more than skin deep.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
Ann R. Thryft   8/13/2012 6:32:39 PM
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TJ, I think you've got a great point there. Red? Electric blue? Magenta? Daffodil yellow? OTOH, I'm not sure if that's physically possible, since carbon is, well, black.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
TJ McDermott   8/13/2012 10:14:52 PM
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The only impossible thing is skiing through a revolving door.

If there's incentive enough, a chemist and the company backing him are going to be very rich.

You've forgotten carbon comes in several forms (cough cough diamond cough cough).  It's clear, fiber's been black all this time.  Surely there's some room in the middle for a bit of color.  Maybe the fibers are carbon nano-tubes, and the interiors can be filled with a colored element.

I wish I had the capital.  I see a mint in the making.

bob from maine
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
bob from maine   8/14/2012 10:25:22 AM
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Gee, I don't know - why would you pay the price for carbon and then not show-it-off? Isn't that part of the glamour? I do know that people have added pigment to the resin on some carbon assemblies. It is, after all FRP, so you can make the plastic any color you want. I'm much more impressed with the fastenings. So far, if you want to connect a carbon fiber assembly to something, you must either bond it, or use fasteners which typically create such high point loads that the carbon assembly fractures. There is great potential in this technology though I'd guess cost will be the major factor in implementing it.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
TJ McDermott   8/14/2012 10:46:26 AM
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Carbon fiber will become commonplace (this article's talking about car wheels).  At that point, color becomes a differentiator.

The plastic can be colored, sure.  But to really stand out, think of the contrasts possible with a colored fiber.

 

sdoyle
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well tested
sdoyle   8/14/2012 11:07:27 AM
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According to their website, these have been well tested: http://www.carbonrev.com/technology.php

The pictures of the aluminum wheel dented at 50mph on the pothole simulation compared to the 60mph without effect looks good.


Sven is still right, when these wheels fail, they will likely fail miserably.  But it appears they won't fail easily.  Of course, I lived in Detroit for a while and very little made it through the tire killer on southward I-94 - a pothole about 3 feet long and at least a foot deep (has since been fixed).  There were cars lined up along the road just past that pothole.  I wonder how this would do against something like that?

Sven
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Re: well tested
Sven   8/14/2012 6:18:39 PM
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Yep, actually, that's the stretch of road I was thinking of.  So many people I worked with had their aluminum rims destroyed on the way back from meetings in Detroit.  And guys coming back with a sore head because they hit the roof during the ordeal.

I guess maybe the carbon would be safer then...after both rims plough into the hard edge pot hole, smash into a tangled mess of shards and fibres, you could glide to a stop on the underbelly or your car since the chassis would now be about flush with the road surface adjacent to the pot-hole.

But point taken about the resin choice that would have some "give" to it.

RNDDUDE
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Re: well tested
RNDDUDE   8/15/2012 10:15:38 AM
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Well, my question is are the weight reduction goals to reduce the entire vehicle's weight, or just the unsprung weight, and how those two differing strategies impact fuel efficiency. Reducing unsprung weight is always a good thing, mostly for NVH. Reducing wheel/tire weight does have some positive MPG impact, but mostly during accceleration, it actually can work the other way during deceleration, where a heavier wheel/tire can help maintain momentum. Using carbon in a wheel is a very challenging application...perhaps putting carbon in other areas to reduce weight might be much more cost effective way to the same effect, perhaps using carbon in suspension components, thus satisfying some of the total weight reduction goals AND unsprung weight goals, although admittidly not as dramatic as carbon wheels.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: well tested
Ann R. Thryft   8/15/2012 12:22:20 PM
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That sounds more like a road failure than a pothole. Glad the roads where I live are better maintained. I doubt if many design/material combinations could survive an encounter with that cavity unharmed.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Lightweight and still good looking
Ann R. Thryft   8/13/2012 6:31:18 PM
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Beth, I agree, the design of this wheel was nicely done from an esthetic standpoint, as well as from a structural standpoint.

Sven
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Shatter
Sven   8/13/2012 5:06:04 PM
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I wonder about true real world impact testing on a carbon fibre wheel.

See the old steel rims could take a curb or nasty detroit pot-hole and you could drive off with a dent in the rib.  The tire might leak some air on the way home.  A mallet or a torch and you could get it back into shape.

The aluminum wheels are usually pretty good, but occasionally I've seen a pot-hole crack the aluminum and the wheel is toast.  I've seen people weld aluminum rims, after damage, but I'd stay away from that.

Carbon fibre is brittle and shatters.  I envision hitting a curb or nasty pot-hole and having the entire wheel splinter into shards.  Most of us have seen carbon fibre at the race track and what happens during impact.

Makes me wonder.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Shatter
Ann R. Thryft   8/13/2012 6:35:56 PM
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Sven, I think your concerns are real, but so is the crash-worthiness testing of carbon fiber made for high-volume automotive apps. Not all carbon fiber composites are made in the same way. Stay tuned for my upcoming September feature on this topic.

Sven
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Re:Shatter
Sven   8/13/2012 7:19:35 PM
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Sorry had to edit this.  Browser I was using to reply left all the spaces out. 

I look forward to it! I love technology, and I imagine there will be a huge safety factor put in. I just keep having visions of things like the time Kimi Raikkonen was on his way to win an F1 race and his rear wing let go. It put up with several G's down force--until it didn't--then it was instantly obliterated.  Ductile metals have a forgiveness as they are over loaded they fail and stretch and deform until becoming unusable. Carbon fibre is so strong but past the yield point it seems its almost instant fail. In concrete we use rebar to offset the brittleness. Maybe this carbon fibre will have some stretchy/bendy fibres???

 

Charles Murray
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Re: Shatter
Charles Murray   8/13/2012 10:03:17 PM
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Nice story, Ann. Any idea how this compares to aluminum wheels in terms of cost?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Shatter
Ann R. Thryft   8/14/2012 12:20:51 PM
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Chuck, once again no pricing information was available, but I'd be very surprised if it cost the same or less. TJ, I think calling diamonds a form of carbon is stretching the definition in terms of what's practical in a manufacturing sense.

oldbikefixr
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Re: Shatter
oldbikefixr   8/14/2012 5:58:09 PM
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Sven...the durability of carbon fiber is in the resin system chosen. When extreme stiffness is the design requirement, the proper resins are brittle. When tension/compression strengths are the requirement, a more resilient resin can be used.

 

As for cost...I'd expect 2-4x the cost of aluminum, depending on the production quantity.

kf2qd
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What is the weight of a steel wheel?
kf2qd   8/14/2012 11:06:11 AM
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Having read many questions about alternate materials in some custom and kitcar forums, How does the weight of the carbon wheel compare to that of a steel wheel? And how well will they stand up to the standard North American pothole? While aluminum and carbon fiber do have their place, often it is necesssary to add weight to achieve the desired strength of the original steel wheel. Maybe not as pretty...

While they may have a certain "sex apeal" it would seem that this application could leave something to be desired in terms of the abuse the wheels have to endure as a normal part of their life cycle.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: What is the weight of a steel wheel?
Ann R. Thryft   8/14/2012 12:22:19 PM
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kf2qd, carbon weighs a heck of a lot less than steel: the strength-to-weight ratio most often quoted is 4-5x, which is the main point for using it in automotive lightweighting as the article mentions. The video at the bottom of the article shows the pothole impact test.

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