Almost two years after we told you about another carbon composite wheel, SABIC and Kringlan Composites have announced they're developing one. The companies say the material is a thermoplastic, not a thermoset, composite, and that the matrix material is based on SABIC's ULTEM resin.
As we've told you before, the carbon composites that have long been used in aerospace are traditionally based on thermoset materials. More recent attempts to make materials that fit automotive production needs focus on thermoplastic resins, which reduce production time.
SABIC and Kringlan Composites are developing a thermoplastic carbon composite wheel with a matrix based on SABIC's ULTEM resin. Kringlan says its process is geared toward high volumes, short cycle times, and in-house recycling of production waste and end-of-life materials. (Source: Kringlan Composites)
The two companies said in a press release that they have been working on a specific prototype wheel design for a German carmaker (which they did not name), and other automotive OEMs have also shown interest. But SABIC and Kringlan don't expect the material's application to be confined to automotive uses. Other industries can make use of its lighter weight. For example, washing machines can take advantage of the composite's weight reduction to reduce the amount of energy it takes to start the drum moving.
"Combining SABIC’s high-performance ULTEM resin with Kringlan's proprietary three-dimensional manufacturing technology for carbon composites offers OEMs the opportunity for reduced weight, lower production costs, as well as material recyclability," Thierry Materne, vice president technology and innovation for SABIC Innovative Plastics, said in the release. "When compared to other thermoplastic materials, the ULTEM resin composite concept offers superior strength at high temperatures, dimensional stability as well as resistance to chemicals."
Kringlan was founded in Switzerland specifically to develop high-performance thermoplastic composites. Its ongoing thermoplastic carbon composite wheel project has served as an example of what the material and careful design can do. Kringlan says its manufacturing process is geared toward high volumes, short cycle times, and in-house recycling of production waste and end-of-life materials.
The two companies that they are working with other industry partners (which they did not name). In September, Kringlan revealed it was working with the aerospace composite manufacturer TenCate to develop thermoplastic composite technology for automotive manufacturing. In the announcement, Kringlan said that TenCate was involved in developing the carbon fiber composite material that had been qualified for Kringlan's all-composite wheel, and that the next step would be production manufacturing. TenCate has also worked with BASF on automotive composites and is well known for its contributions to aerospace, such as the composites on the Maven spacecraft headed for Mars.
The only issue I see is with potholes. An aluminum wheel will likely bend, but if you were to hit a very big pothole that completely collapses the tire then the composite is more likely to crack than bend. I'm all in favor of the composite. Heaven knows how many corroded alum. wheels I've had to have fixed to stop from leaking around the rim. No more of that! I hope they are cost effective enough to replace the alum.
far911, thanks for that interesting input on friction, braking, etc. As usual, the use of carbon fiber composites vs metals is worth the great expense in applications where weight savings are paramount, such as aerospace, and increasingly in automotive as well.
Greg, unfortunately, weight and diameter were not mentioned. But carbon fiber composites are well known to be both lighter than metals and also to have a strength-to-weight ratio higher than metals, including aluminum.
Aluminium and other metals transfer heat quite well, but carbon fibre does not. As a result, wheels with carbon fibre rims do not brake as effectively as wheels with metal brake tracks. These characteristics of composites give full carbon wheels two primary advantages over wheels with an aluminium brake track bonded to a deep carbon fibre rim. The first, and more important of the two, is the aerodynamic shape. Weight is the second advantage of a full carbon wheel over an aluminium and carbon fibre combination.
This is great. Not only will this help in reducing the inertia of devices but will also considerably increase the efficiency and thus provide energy efficient solution for various devices. Moreover the reduce in the weight is a huge plus for the industry appliances, as the material is equal in strength to metal but comparatively less heavy.
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