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15th January 2019, Detroit, MI

IACMI advanced composites at Detroit auto show

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) is showcasing composites innovations in lightweighting for the automotive sector at the JEC Group’s Composites Pavilion at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) which began on 14 January and runs until the 17 in Detroit, Michigan.

IACMI, a national public private partnership comprised of 160+ members, is committed to increasing domestic production capacity and manufacturing jobs across the US composites industry.

At NAIAS, IACMI is highlighting research and development initiatives that are driving the future of composites for automotive lightweighting. © IACMI

The institute is driven by the University of Tennessee and supported by the US Department of Energy and other partners.

At NAIAS, IACMI is highlighting research and development initiatives that are driving the future of composites for automotive lightweighting. It is showcasing the first large injection moulded automotive prototype made with low-cost textile-grade carbon fibre.  Produced by Techmer PM, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Michigan State University (MSU), this production approach yields an estimated cost savings of 40-50% compared to a 50,000 filament tow commercial counterpart.

The textile carbon fibre was produced by ORNL and TechmerPM addressed unique compounding challenges to provide pellets of PA66, a commonly used thermoplastic nylon, reinforced with 25% of the textile carbon fibre. MSU tuned the moulding parameters for the unique compound and produced full-size car bumpers through injection moulding at the IACMI Scale-Up Research Facility (SURF).

Through this collaborative effort, textile carbon fibre was injection moulded using the Milacron 3,000-ton injection press and at cycle times relevant for high-volume production. Additional trials have demonstrated the versatility of using different fibre content, including parts with 10% and 45% carbon fibre content.

While traditional carbon fibre composites have long been touted for their weight savings in stiffness-critical automotive applications including automotive bodies, b-pillars, and other structural components, the implementation of textile carbon fibre makes these applications more cost-competitive with traditional, heavier materials. Textile carbon fibre has potential for significant impact in the automotive industry because of the reduced cost for supporting weight savings opportunities.

“The availability of textile carbon fibre opens new opportunities for lightweighting and design innovation in the automotive industry, and we are excited to be part of the JEC Group’s Composites Pavilion to showcase this material in a moulded part,” said IACMI CEO, John A. Hopkins. “We are proud of this first-of-its-kind validation of technologies and look forward to seeing future implementation in automotive and other applications.”

Much of the validation for this research project was conducted at the IACMI Scale-Up Research Facility (SURF), which is co-located with partner Manufacturing USA institute, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) in Corktown neighborhood in Detroit. SURF offers full-scale production testing of carbon fibre integration with processes from a Litzler prepreg machine to the only 4,000-ton Schuler compression moulding machine available for research and development usage in North America. Additionally,  SURF also offers a 3,000-ton Milacron injection moulding machine, which was utilized in this research project.

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