EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES to showcase innovation in the Automotive Industry
The new major fair for fibre composite materials and lightweight construction ‘EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES – powered by JEC Group – presents innovations, ideas, projects, start-up initiatives and application possibilities for fibre composites in six industry displays. The automotive sector will also be strongly represented in Augsburg between 21st and 23rd September. Car manufacturers, suppliers and partners will be presenting a wide range of application possibilities, opportunities and the future potential of composite materials. The name of the fair – EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES – says it all, and there will be plenty of lightweight, sturdy and ductile car parts to experience, handle and look at, especially in the automotive display area.
Fibre composites have a long-standing tradition in car manufacturing
Composite materials were first used to manufacture cars back in 1958, the initial reason being the lack of available materials at the time. In former East Germany, sheet steel was on the embargo list and Russian body sheet proved to be unsuitable for production purposes, which is why the Trabant that went into series in 1958 had an outer shell made of composite material – a cotton-reinforced phenolic resin. When the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters) race championship started at the beginning of the 1990s, there was a need for car bodies that were extremely strong with a small mass and low tool investment costs. Consequently, composite materials were used, although at the time they were primarily considered a manufacturing technology from the aerospace and extreme sport sectors.
Sports cars as pioneers
The first automobile with a monocoque, a unibody construction made of fibre-reinforced plastic, was the 1956 Berkeley Sports B60. This construction type first became really well-known with the 1957 Lotus Elite which comprised parts made of fibre glass. The fibre-reinforced monocoque era in the Formula 1 began around 1980 and led to a drastic reduction in accidents in this highest of car racing circles. The first monocoque made of carbon fibre composites was the 1981 McLaren MP4-1. At the turn of the century, exclusive and high-image small series vehicles were manufactured with fibre-reinforced plastic monocoques. For instance, the Audi Sport Quattro went into series in 1983 with an outer car body made of aramid and fibre-reinforced composites. The American version of the Audi 90 had a cardan shaft completely made of fibre-reinforced plastic as of 1989. In 2013 BMW started using fibre-reinforced composites in large-scale series in the life-module of the BMW i3. The use of composite materials is also growing in the motorcycle manufacturing sector, e.g. in the new HOREX VR6 Classic or the new HOREX VR6 Café Roadster.
Prominence focuses on CFK – trim parts, car body structures, wheel trims, brakes
Until now composite materials were primarily used as trim parts inside cars and in the design of the engine compartment. Increasingly, fibre-reinforced composites are found in the car body structures of premium vehicles. One growing market is that of fibre-reinforced composite wheel rims. Carbon-ceramic has proved itself as a material for brake discs. The car manufacturing elite has also discovered fibre-reinforced composite monocoques which are used, for instance, in the Bugatti Veyron, the Lamborghini Aventador, the Mercedes McLaren, the Porsche GT, Porsche 918 Spyder and the Alfa Romeo 4C. Complete outer shells made of fibre-reinforced composites have made the Lamborghini Murcielago and the Lamborghini Aventador pioneer vehicles in terms of lightness, stability and level of innovation. In the first generation of the Audi R8 Roadster, the rear side parts and the roof compartment lid were made of composites, as was the rear engine bonnet of the Lamborghini Gallardo. Successful applications, for instance car body parts, can also be found in the top and middle-of-the-range series vehicles e.g. BMW i3, BMW i8, BMW 7r, the latest version of the Audi R8, the Lamborghini Huracan, Bentley Flying Spur and the S-Class from Mercedes.
The future of composites in car manufacturing
Heinrich Timm, automotive specialist at the Carbon Composites e.V. business association, is sure that this development is only in its infancy and that it will lead to an industrial breakthrough. ‘The superiority of fibre-reinforced plastics in lightweight construction quality is no longer an issue that can be ignored. The material enjoys a good image as a high-tech product, especially thanks to the high level of passenger safety. However, as always, before a new material really takes hold, it is necessary to come up with marketable concept and part designs, innovative processes and applications, and strong advocates and platforms. I am certain that EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES will help to advance the industry, especially thanks to the involvement of CCeV and JEC Group. Of course there are still hurdles that need to be taken” says Heinrich Timm. “We at c2i are looking forward to the industry’s new event in Augsburg. We need platforms where we can present our technology innovations, find new partners, talk to potential suppliers and customers and people with ideas and strengthen our network. Comprehensive networks are the enabler for wide-spread adoption of composites materials, especially in the automotive sector,“ says Patrick Hessel from c2i, a Slovakian carbon-fibre components manufacturer.
Moreover, the ideal location of Augsburg, in the heart of Bavaria, a region renowned for its automotive industry is right on point. BMW, Audi, Daimler, ZF, Porsche, to name a few, are all located in this area.
The fair as a development marketplace
Ecology, durability, stability, safety and recyclability are factors that pose challenges to using more composites in car manufacturing. The development sector is already profiting from numerous advantages today. The lightness of ‘composite cars’ reduces fuel consumption and is positive in the environmental balance sheet. Developments in the field of fully automatic production processes for composite parts (Automated Fibre Placement AFP) with the use of robots play right into the hands of the industry. Even so-called bio-composites, hybrid parts and fibre modifications will benefit discussions. ‘It is very important to take note of the latest applications and application areas and to openly discuss the challenges. This is the aim of the EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES fair and also the EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES symposium. We want to bring together manufacturers and suppliers, innovators and start-ups, and help them form networks. We want our new fair to become a real business marketplace in the automotive sector, too. We want to keep pace with the development of composites over the next few years and accompany the progress closely,” says Philip Häußler, project manager of ‘EXPERIENCE COMPOSITES – powered by JEC Group’.
The symposium will present:
• Thermoplastic processing at room temperature with thermoset properties by Arkema
• The development of an engineering approach to find cost-effective solutions for hybrid composite structures by Code Product Solutions
• Operation monitoring used for lightweight construction in the vehicle’s body-in-white by csi entwicklungstechnik GmbH)
• High speed curing with UV radiation for the automotive industry by University Augsburg
• Core technology for the production of complex fibre composite hollow structures by KTM Technologies GmbH
• Pre-impregnated Material Systems for Automotive High Volume Production by SGL Group
Followed by a site visit at SGL Group.