Lighter, stronger, and friendlier to the environment, composites are making vehicles better. With emphasis on safety, performance, and fuel efficiency, automakers are turning to thermoplastic composites to meet ever-increasing industry and consumer standards.
Rising CAFE requirements and customer demand for greater fuel economy are pushing manufacturers to deliver more environmentally friendly options. Lighter vehicles use less fuel. And a major opportunity exists with high-performing composites to implement lightweight alternatives.
Beyond weight savings, thermoplastics lend their benefits to all areas of vehicle construction. They will not rust or corrode like steel or aluminum, offer improved recyclability over other composites, and possess significantly greater strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios than those achievable with metals.
Recent reports from Markets And Markets and Mordor Intelligence project a CAGR of 12.26% and 9.13% respectively from 2017 to 2022. Similar optimism is shared by Lucintel with estimated growth for carbon fiber in the automotive market to reach a CAGR of 10.4% from 2016-2021.
While these numbers can vary to a degree, they all similarly conclude with significant and consistent growth over the next five years. Composites are replacing metals as the default materials for manufacturing.
2017 has seen many exciting composite projects developed around the globe. Below represents just a few of the ways manufacturers are adapting.
- Hyundai Goes Lightweight with Patent for CFRP Front End
- Toray to Open Automotive Materials R&D Base in Europe
- Magna Works with Ford to Create Carbon Fiber Composite Subframe
The importance of composite materials and parts has never been greater, and major automakers are taking note.
Causes For Concern
While recent projects and advancements are cause for much excitement in the composites world, affordability continues to be a significant obstacle. High-performing composites, as referenced throughout this article, were initially geared towards aerospace applications where cost is not as critical.
Processing speed requirements can also force composites out of consideration as the automotive industry is driven by high volumes and, likewise, high manufacturing turnover of parts.
However, developments in carbon fiber production will aid in decreasing raw material costs, and innovative manufacturing solutions such as laser processing and improved part evaluation offer faster production times. Working to improve in these critical areas will be key to more widespread adoption of composites in the automotive market.
Automated Dynamics’ laser heating system and extensive experience with thermoplastic composites gives us great confidence to tackle these challenges. Contact us today to see how we can work with you to build lighter vehicles from the inside out.