Composite materials have long been touted as the future of automobiles…but is the future already here? Advanced composite materials are improving cars at a manufacturing level making them safer, lighter, and less expensive than ever before.
Here are three innovations in automotive composites that may just change the cars we drive for good.
- Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic
Reinforced composites – those embedded with a structural layer or layers of a material like glass fiber or carbon fiber – are widely used in automotive construction. The primary benefit provided by carbon fiber reinforced plastic is its ability to “lightweight,” which is to reduce the total weight of a vehicle. Why is lighter better? Because lighter vehicles are more energy efficient and can more easily be controlled by sensitive digital equipment. Composites are also endlessly customizable from an aesthetic perspective, offering automakers the ability to use forms and presses to tightly control everything from resin gloss to shape.
- Wet-Machined Composites
Manufacturing logic has always held that traditional liquid coolants should never be used to expedite the curing process of advanced composites. Automakers have long believed that petroleum-based coolants actually degrade the mechanical properties of a composite. There are challenges, though, to dry machining FRPs (i.e. cutting, altering, connecting) including low-cutting speeds, hazardous dust, and the cost of machinery itself. In the search of a better way, high-performance automakers are prompting development of coolants designed specifically to be wet-cut. This new generation of coolants made of water-soluble synthetics machine faster and more accurately.
- Biocomposites & GRFPs
Biocomposites represent a new generation of composite materials. Made from sustainable sources like flax and vegetables, bio-based composites may just be the solution to one of the automotive industry’s biggest crises: landfill. Traditional vehicles are incredibly expensive – and environmentally-unfriendly – to get rid of; biocomposite components used to build eco-friendly cars are totally biodegradable. When combined with the value-adds of glass fiber reinforced composites, biocomposites can be used to make cars that are easier (and less expensive) to produce than traditional all-metal vehicles, and are significantly lighter, too. Major auto brands like Volkswagen are already incorporating up to 5-7% of GFRP and biocomposites into their mass-produced vehicle lines.
Reinforced composite materials are one of the most promising areas of materials science. For carmakers, these resources are changing more than just the production, cost, and utility of vehicles…they’re changing the scope of automobiles themselves.
B&W Fiberglass specializes in innovative composite solutions like GFRP. Glass yarn, fiberglass, and GFRP have come a long way over the last 50, 20, and even 10 years. How can the experts at B&W help your team solve a complex problem?
Reach out to us today to find out more about our products and capabilities.