ACOMPLICE is examining thermoset composites, said Arnold:
To overcome cost problems, we're looking at reducing cure cycles by processing standard resins so they cure faster. We're also looking at fiber alignment and alternative methods to speed up production, so there's less manual labor required to produce components. We're considering different fiber formats, although obviously we want to maintain fiber alignment to keep the mechanical properties of the material. And we're looking at alternative ways of processing the newly developed fiber formats to reduce the time required to laminate materials.
The consortium views body-in-white and other structural components as the prime candidates for achieving weight savings, aside from the powertrain. It will take advantage of a previous Umeco project, ARMATURE, which aimed at simulating human lamination actions with robotics. Arnold said:
We want to expand on that technology by furthering the IP from ARMATURE so it can maximize what robotics offers, combined with resin formulations and materials development. Robotics will be used largely to increase the rate at which composite parts can be produced. They also facilitate the pre-forming routes, such as ply stacking and orientation. We may look at methods for positioning plies more accurately than humans can, and at high rates.
Other areas with room for improvement include standards and software. Particularly in resins, but even in fibers, there's no industry standard, said Baron. "Purchasing has no established spec to be met. So standards need to be developed. Another need for standards is in testing products."
Most companies building mainstream, high-volume cars use CAD, CAM, and CAE tools designed for simulating the behavior of metal and plastic components. It's a challenge now for them to design for composite manufacturability and to shift to a new generation of composites software and processes.
Car manufacturers want to learn from aerospace carbon composites, "so we leverage some of that industry's techniques for virtual design and testing," said Richardson. The main challenges in using composite simulation tools designed for aerospace in mainstream automotive applications is the potentially different geometries and material selections. To make the manufacturing process easier and more turnkey, the tools used in each industry need to continue getting smarter and more efficient. "For instance, the aerospace and automotive industries are working on automating some of the most tedious tasks in composite production, such as hand lay-up, with tools like laser projectors that can assist with those tasks," she said.
Archie, I think the fascination with carbon fibers is the environmental factor. However, the steel folks argue that the front end of the carbon fiber process eats up considerable energy -- plus, they argue that steel is very easy to recycle.
Why the fascination of carbon fibres. The same techniques can be used with glass fibres which are cheaper. This can create as light structures which are, admittedly, less stiff but no less strong. The main importance is correct fibre orientation and high fibre density, i.e. squeezing out the resin. The same techniques can be applied to glass as carbon.
The high fibre density is cheaper in materials, lighter and less brittle.
Rapid curing is generally a result of using an appropriate resin - plus the use of heat. The advantage of applying heat is that a slower mix can be used but rapid curing applied once the shell or component is fully laid up. The safest method would be to use hot water. Possibly a water jacket could be applied using the water to squeeze the shells to get high compaction and then the cold water could be run out and hot water inserted to accelerate the cure.
@Ann: Titanium is not expected to play a big role in automotive lightweighting, but magnesium is. The Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program forecasts that magnesium will make up 12% of a vehicle's weight by 2035 (compared to <1% today). They have been doing a lot of work on magnesium casting techniques. This would make a good topic for a future article.
This seems like an interesting element in the "lightweighting" game. As ratkinsonjr points out, sometimes a process development is needed before materials become cost effective. Who knows, perhaps converting automatic knitting machines to make cloth "shapes" for the automotive industry is the sort of cross-pollination of technologies that could make carbon fiber cost effective as a solution. Glad to see a consortium working on this. Thanks for the story.
The use of alternative materials such as carbon fiber or titanium, as stated in the article, is driven by fuel efficiency goals. to improve fuel efficiency, there are three main areas of research: reducing weight, reducing dissipative losses (frictional losses & aerodynamic drag) and improving powerplant efficiency. These can be complementary, as improvements in one area can provide benefits in the other areas. A titanium engine block, for example, would be lighter, but might also have a higher operating temperature, reducing the size of the radiator, which would reduce weight and frontal area, lowering drag.
The problem with titanium is the cost of separating the metal from the ore. Aluminum was once more expensive than gold, until the Hall-Herout process was developed to extract the pure metal from ore more cheaply. If a similar breakthough could be achieved with titanium, it would have much wider application as the cost would be much lower.
Similarly, if the process for manufacturing raw carbon fiber could be improved, and production rates increased through improved fabrication processes, the cost would drop, and more products could afford to take advantage of carbon fiber's unique material properties.
So it seems that the research efforts should focus on reducing material cost. Once the cost is low enough, as the saying goes: "If you build it, they will come!".
Truchard will be presented the award at the 2014 Golden Mousetrap Awards ceremony during the co-located events Pacific Design & Manufacturing, MD&M West, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, ATX West, and AeroCon.
In a bid to boost the viability of lithium-based electric car batteries, a team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a chemistry that could possibly double an EV’s driving range while cutting its battery cost in half.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.