Can Carbon Fiber Replace Steel in the Automotive Industry ?

Carbon-Fiber Composites may have just gotten the push they need to truly surpass steel as the material of choice for automotive manufacturers.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) recently announced a project aimed to decrease the cost of carbon fiber automotive structural parts by 15 percent for target components. This project will also look into how to decrease cost and cycle times, which currently limit the use of carbon fiber in automotive structural parts.

The IACMI’s project will be taking a “supply chain, ecosystem-based approach” to integrating material selection, molding methods and performance design patterns with waste stream utilization, according to the IACMI.

Integrated supply chain-based improvements will be tested in the first phase of the project, through flat panel demonstration.

Project conclusions are hoped to help manufacturers optimize high-speed processing, as well as advance recyclability of automotive parts.

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an independent non-profit, the increased use of carbon fiber materials in manufacturing presents up to an 80 percent cut in fixed manufacturing costs. These cost savings would come from greatly reduced tooling and simpler assembly and joining.

“This translates to a 35 percent overall savings since costs are spread over 250,000 units of annual production,” said the RMI.

What makes the IACMI’s undertaking so significant is that the biggest hurdle to carbon-fibers adoption is the seemingly out-of-control material costs.

carbonfiber_vs_steel_manufacturing_hqqbwb“However, such cost savings are currently overshadowed with carbon fiber material prices upwards of USD$16/lb,” said the RMI. “If carbon fiber costs can be driven down to $5/lb (for large-tow, standard-modulus, automotive-grade creel fiber), a carbon-fiber-based auto would become cost-competitive with a steel-based auto.”

The 15 percent price drop that the IACMI is looking toward is a far cry from the nearly 70 percent drop the RMI is talking about, but is still a significant step in that direction.

Potential industry partners have been submitting project proposals to collaborate with members and use resources to develop high impact advanced composites. Today, there are multiple project agreements in place for this purpose.

“By partnering with industry to solve composite materials manufacturing challenges, we’re advancing clean energy innovations that will help United States vehicles to meet energy saving CAFÉ standards required in 2025,” said Craig Blue, CEO of the IACMI.

The IACMI will be partnering with Toray Composites America and collaborate with Zoltek, Reichhold, Janicki Industries, Globe Machine Manufacturing Co., the Composite Recycling Technology Center (CRTC), American Composites Manufacturing Association (ACMA) and Michigan State University (MSU) for this project.

For more information about IACMI’s project, visit iacmi.org.

.

.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials originally published on engineering.com. The original article was written by Kagan Pittman.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Advertisements