FREE MEMBERSHIP

Get your FREE Inside Composite membership

Sign me up!

12th June 2018, Stuttgart

Auto advances at Composites Europe

A key focus at this November’s Composites Europe show in Stuttgart, Germany, will again be the automotive sector.

“BMW and SGL, Ford and DowAksa, Hyundai and Hyosung, Mitsubishi and Wethje and Volvo with Benteler-SGL and Henkel are just a few examples of close partnerships between major automotive brands and composites manufacturers putting  new applications into practice,” says Dr Elmar Witten, general manager of Composites Germany. “The automotive industry, including commercial vehicles, continues to be one of the major growth drivers for fibre composite solutions and lightweight construction plays an especially important role within the context of e-mobility in the automotive sector.

One example of a successful cooperation between an automotive manufacturer and a composites producer is SGL’s eight-year cooperation with BMW. © Adrian Wilson

“Lightweight construction is of particular significance for Germany’s industry to compete on a global scale and, hence, for Made in Germany.”

Dr Witten is one of the initiators of a new position paper, Germany must become the Lead Supplier for Lightweight Construction, which highlights the importance of new processing methods such as resin transfer moulding (RTM) which is reducing cycle times to just a few minutes.

“The mass production of vehicles still primarily relies on glass fibre composites at present,” Witten says. “For one thing, carbon composite parts are still too expensive and there also are no suitable processing methods available yet that would live up to the high standardisation requirements and production speeds in automotive manufacturing.”

The VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency also sees enormous growth potential for composites in the transport sector in its report, Snapshot of Lightweight Construction in Germany, with analysts expecting an average annual growth of 7-8% in the transport sector and the global market to reach some €140 billion by 2020. The authors identified automotive manufacturing and commercial vehicles, in particular, as the main drivers. 

Cooperations

One example of a successful cooperation between an automotive manufacturer and a composites producer is SGL’s eight-year cooperation with BMW, where lightweight construction solutions have been instrumental to the success of the i3 and i8 models. Another successful collaboration began in 2015 between DowAksa and Ford with the aim of accelerating the development of carbon fibre composite applications for future series and large scale production.

A key focus at this November’s Composites Europe show will again be the automotive sector. © Adrian Wilson

The partnership between Henkel and Benteler-SGL has resulted in the series launch of a composite transversal leaf spring in not just one but several Volvo models. The transversal leaf spring integrated into the rear axle brings about a weight reduction of 4.5 kg compared to conventional steel coil springs, which reduces fuel consumption as well as CO2 emissions and creates additional space in the trunk.

High potential

Central challenges for automotive manufacturers include the reduction of CO2 emissions specified by EU Regulation, new safety requirements and e-mobility. Areas of activity for lightweight construction range from the selection and combination of materials through to component design and systematic approaches for complete vehicles. 

Experts see slight but stable growth for carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) applications in line with market growth for the composites industry as a whole, and for CFRP producers the automotive industry still ranks second in terms of demand and turnover.

This, however, will change soon. According to forecasts, by late 2020 the demand created in this sector of industry will exceed that of aerospace (including defence). In this scenario the automotive sector will account for some 30% of global demand amounting to approximately 239,000 tons, forecasts say. This would correspond to about 72,000 tons.

BMW and SGL, Ford and DowAksa, Hyundai and Hyosung, Mitsubishi and Wethje and Volvo with Benteler-SGL and Henkel are just a few examples of close partnerships between major automotive brands and composites manufacturers. © Adrian Wilson

There is, however, a major problem with the image of composites.

“Despite the outstanding corrosion properties, high shape retention, low-maintenance characteristics and durability of these materials, as well as the possibility they offer to combine load-specific designs with a high degree of design freedom, composites are unfortunately still little known to decision-makers,” says Witten. “To improve this situation is one of the most pressing tasks for the industry as a whole.”

From November 6-8, Composites Europe will show all the manufacturing processes used to make fibre-reinforced plastics, from raw materials to processing methods and to lightweight construction innovations in automotive engineering, aerospace, boatbuilding, wind energy and construction.

Visitors will meet more than 400 exhibitors from 30 countries in Stuttgart, the leading technology region of the industry in Germany, the leading research and development country worldwide.

Composites Europe is organised by Reed Exhibitions in cooperation with the European industry association EuCIA and the trade association Composites Germany.

www.composites-europe.com

This article is also appears in...

Comments

Be the first to comment on Auto advances at Composites Europe

|

Back to Top