Carbon fiber-based materials, including composites, as well as glass fiber composites, have gotten a lot of press lately in lightweighting efforts for transportation industries like automotive and aerospace. But the biggest lightweighting role in the near term will be played by high-performance metals such as aluminum and advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), according to "Structural Navigation: Optimizing Materials Selection in Automotive and Aerospace," a new report from LUX Research.
The materials used for lightweighting in transportation present different challenges, so selection requires careful choices, Ross Kozarsky, a LUX Research analyst and the report's lead author, told us. LUX Research conducted multiple decision-tree analyses to determine which materials are best used where, both now and 10 years from now. The decision-tree approach was designed to help automotive and aerospace companies, as well as suppliers and material developers. Kozarsky said:
Each material has its own portfolio of features, such as cost, environmental resistance, compatibility, tensile strength, thickness, corrosion, ability to absorb vibrations, and moldability. To best analyze an aircraft or an automobile, it needs to be broken down on the component level: what's the ideal material for each component?
Regardless of how much carbon fiber composites have entered into car designs such as Audi's, the biggest transportation lightweighting role in the near term will be played by high-performance metals like aluminum and advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), according to a new report from LUX Research.
AHSS and aluminum are on a similar part of the spectrum, said Kozarsky. "They are both the cheapest and offer the most incremental, rather than disruptive, performance changes. But for some applications, steel is better, and for others, aluminum is better." AHSS still offers high-volume automakers the lowest price and wide availability, so it continues to be the near-term leader. However, its limited ductility and welding can pose problems.
Because of the scale of its global giant producers, aluminum is second only to steel in cost and availability. On the report's structural materials spectrum its alloys occupy the middle ground. In many cases it's the best material for the short term, since it doesn't disrupt manufacturing patterns.