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Adrian Wilson

Editor's Viewpoint

13th November 2018, Stuttgart

Hybrids dominate at Composites Europe 2018

The influence of the automotive industry to the prosperity of Stuttgart is clearly underlined at the imposing Mercedes-Benz Museum which stands directly outside the main gate of the Daimler factory on the outskirts of the German city.

Within its double helix interior – providing 16,500 square metres of exhibition space on a footprint of just 4,800 square metres – are housed more than 160 vehicles dating back to the first automobile invented by Carl Benz in 1886, with the history of the 20th Century charted through subsequent four-wheeled developments.

Mercedes-Benz Museum stands directly outside the main gate of the Daimler factory on the outskirts of Stuttgart. © Adrian Wilson

Not only is Stuttgart the home of Daimler and Mercedes-Benz,  but also of Porsche and leading automotive industry suppliers such as Bosch, and as a consequence, it is a natural location for any automotive industry-related event in Europe.

Composites Europe is now held annually in the city, with the latest show taking place from November 6-8 and drawing in almost the entire automotive industry – from Audi, BMW, Bugatti, Daimler, Ford, Honda and Mitsubishi to Opel, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

The influence of the automotive industry to the prosperity of Stuttgart is clearly underlined at the imposing Mercedes-Benz Museum. © Adrian Wilson

However, the huge expectations for the adoption of carbon composites by the automotive industry as primary car body structures – sparked by BMW’s hugely ambitious i3 and i8 electric vehicle programmes – have now been somewhat dampened.

Multi materials

So said Dr Michael Effing, CEO of Composites Germany, in his opening speech at the 4th International Composites Congress in Stuttgart last week, held alongside the Composites Europe exhibition.

The emphasis for automotive components, he said, is now very much on multi-material systems – metals and composites for example, thermosets with thermoplastics and many other hybrid products.

The history of the 20th century is charted through subsequent four-wheeled developments. © Adrian Wilson

“The new focus on electric mobility and autonomous driving calls for integrated functionalities, with the major drivers being design flexibility, further weight reduction, rapid development and cost effectiveness,” Effing said. “To succeed in the automotive industry, composites need to be highly cost efficient and produced by high volume, rapid-cycle and robust processes where no scrap is generated.”

Processes currently achieving success, he added, include high performance sheet moulding compounding (HP-SMC), hybrid thermoplastic moulding with inserts, and tape winding in combination with tape placement.

The museum houses more than 160 vehicles dating back to the first automobile invented by Carl Benz in 1886. © Adrian Wilson

With more high speed and high volume processes being perfected all the time, Dr Effing suggested that composites, which equated to 50% of the aluminium market in 2017, could grow to be the equivalent of 70% of it by 2030.

The opening session of the ICC also included market forecasts from Composites Germany members Carbon Composites and AVK.

Michael Sauer of the Carbon Composites reported that the global demand for carbon fibre will continue to enjoy a CAGR of 11.5% up to 2022.

Dr Elmar Witten of AVK meanwhile charted the reinvigoration of the glass fibre composites market in Europe.

Hybrid concepts were also very prominent in the range of developments which were selected for AVK 2018 Innovation Awards, with the winners announced at the conference.

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