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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

19th September 2017, Stuttgart

3D, 5G and future considerations at the IIC

Composites for the automotive and building and construction sectors dominated proceedings during the first day of the 3rd International Composites Congress (IIC) held in Stuttgart on Monday (September 18th).

In opening the conference, Michael Effing chairman of Composites Germany, which now has 830 company members and links four satellite organisations, said his organisation was intent on standing up to prevent newly-developed technologies that are the result of intensive R&D projects in Europe from migrating to lower-cost countries, as has happened so often in the past.

Michael Kühnel, of Carbon Composites.

The European production of composites in 2016 was put at 2,781 tons, with glass fibre-based products amounting to 87% of the total – the equivalent of 50% of the competing aluminium market. Growth is a healthy 5-6% per annum.

Elmar Witten of the AVK and Michael Kühnel of Carbon Composites provided detailed breakdowns of this production for materials based on glass and carbon fibres respectively.

High volumes

Kühnel cited the Benteler-SGL development of the glass fibre composite leaf spring for Volvo as the current benchmark for high volume production for the automotive industry, with 500,000 parts to be mass produced in 2018.

Glass fibre composite leaf spring for Volvo. © SGL Group/Benteler

Later Franz-Jürgen Kümpers, managing director of SGL Kümpers, showed some extraordinary footage of his company’s development of an automated system for manufacturing the roof frame for the BMW 7 Series. This involves braiding machines served by a team of robots and has been highly successful in meeting BMW’s target of 140,000 components a year with very minimal scrap rates.

The pending launch of Hyundai’s 3D-printed all-carbon bodied Intrado in Europe in 2018 was mentioned by Kühnel as an example of other automotive OEMs embracing the technology.

Hyundai’s 3D-printed all-carbon bodied Intrado. © Hyundai

Meanwhile, Michael Effing  mentioned projections that there will be on average of 2kg of carbon fibre in every car and light vehicle manufactured in China in 2020 and wondered how realistic this was. With 20 million vehicles now being produced annually, this would account for more than the entire forecasted demand for carbon fibre in that year, which Carbon Composites puts at 95,500 tons.

Infrastructure

As far as building and construction is concerned, the tremendous potential of the 3D printed composites technology of Branch Technology was mentioned as a potential gamechanger, and in another thought-provoking paper, Mikko Lassilla of Exel Composites spoke of the enormous potential for composites in the infrastructural requirements that will quickly arise from the implementation of a global 5G telecommunications network. This is something the composites industry really needs to be aware of and will be the subject of a future article.

3D printed composites technology. © Branch Technology

The partner country for this year’s IIC is South Korea, and details of, among other developments, the establishment of the Korean Carbon Valley and the forthcoming $100 million Mega Carbon project. Further details will follow.

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