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Engineering Materials

Slideshow: Carbon Composites for Cars Get Tougher & Faster

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Technical data
Ann R. Thryft   11/21/2013 12:15:48 PM
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Thanks, Chuck. I couldn't have done it without all the good input from Dow Automotive. They've been out there, along with Ford, at the head of the pack in this application.



Charles Murray
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Technical data
Charles Murray   11/20/2013 7:13:36 PM
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The technical data in this article and these slides is outstanding. Nice job, Ann.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All of the effort on composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/7/2013 2:30:45 PM
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j-allen thanks for the example. Of course, the car companies, and the materials companies, have done much more sophisticated calculations, in combination with a lot of experimentation with different types of composite manufacturing techniques. Because this is about a lot more than a materials shift; it's about how to integrate the manufacturing of a new material into a highly automated, high-speed process.

j-allen
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Re: All of the effort on composites
j-allen   11/5/2013 9:35:39 PM
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Let me illustrate the point with a simple calculation.   Say a car has a life of 100,000 miles and gets 33 miles/gal.  If gasoline is $3/gal It will therefore consume about 3000 gallons or $10,000 worth of fuel in its lifetime.  If carbon fiber construction can improve the mileage by 10%, then it would just pay (break even) to spend an extra $1000 to do so.  If the improvement is greater, or the cost of the carbon fiber less than postulated, then the substitution is clearly justified, or conversely. 

I have used simple, arbitrary numbers here just to demonstrate how the calculation might work.  I have also omitted the subtle points like cost of investment, and the less quantifiable social and environmental value of saving 300 gallons of gasoline. 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All of the effort on composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/5/2013 6:39:46 PM
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j-allen, I'm not sure who you were replying to, but yes, the strength-to-weight ratio is one of the major draws to replacing metals with carbon composites, and that ratio is also superior compared to glass fiber composites. Predictions about how much fuel saved merely by replacing metals with carbon fiber have already been done, although right now I forget when and where that info resides. You can probably find out by googling. The big drawback is still manufacturing/assembly costs, which are still too high to justify the material costs. A much larger supply, big enough to feed the huge automotive market, would of course change that picture.

j-allen
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Re: All of the effort on composites
j-allen   11/4/2013 5:31:25 PM
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Please see my comment which addresses exactly your point.  (Posted before I saw yours--sorry.)

j-allen
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Automotive carbon fiber.
j-allen   11/4/2013 5:28:47 PM
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It seems the main advantage of carbon fiber composites over conventional materials (including fiberglass composites) is their strength-to-weight ratio.   Therefore it would be good to predict how much fuel one would save over the life of the vehicle, and whether this would justify the added cost (obviously considering, too, the externalities associated with the fuel). 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All of the effort on composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/4/2013 1:27:36 PM
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GTOlover, you nailed the supply problem. The auto industry is well aware of the issue, which we discussed with Ford here: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=249597&page_number=2

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All of the effort on composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/4/2013 1:23:05 PM
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Lou, there's a lot of effort in the US, UK and Japan to get carbon composites in high-volume automotive applications. Here's a roundup I did last year describing some of these R&D efforts: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=244093

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: All of the effort on composites
Ann R. Thryft   11/4/2013 1:22:03 PM
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TJ, thanks for the comment: I agree, that was mind-boggling. However, a Japanese company, Teijin, achieved less than one minute a couple years ago: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=230298

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