The drive for automotive solutions The highlight in the future will be composites replacing metals; new electric vehicle solutions while automotive makers are expanding to emerging markets.
ajor technological challenges exist in order to establish breakthrough solutions enabling significant steps towards energy efficient or eventually zero emission vehicles ideally based on renewable energy resources. Taking this cue, vehicle maker Daimler and materials firm BASF have developed a new concept car called Smart Forvision, under the Smart brand, shown recently at the Motor Show in Frankfurt. Crediting itself as a pioneer of urban mobility, Daimler says it combines a futuristic design with technologies relating to energy efficiency, lightweight design and temperature management. The companies worked on new concepts and materials in the areas of insulation, reflection, lightweight design and energy management. In addition to transparent organic solar cells, transparent and energy-saving lightemitting diodes and infrared-reflective films and coatings, high-performance foams are used for insulation against cold and heat. The Smart is also setting new standards of lightweight design with the use of the first all-plastic wheels.
a collision with a sharp object at 45 miles/hour, keeping the highly sensitive battery intact. Currently, steel components are welded together to make these boxes. The scientists have developed a process chain with cycle times that make the production of high unit counts possible. It is designed so that many steps can run simultaneously. For example, the plastic is heated up parallel to the production step and elements are prepared that ensure load and tensile strength or the attachment to the storage in the rear of the Artega. This includes, for example, directionally oriented fibreglass structures or custom-made metal inserts. All the individual components are then assembled and pressed together in a “one-shot process”. In related news, German firm BASF has established a lightweight composites team to focus on the development of marketable materials and technologies that are suitable for manufacturing fibre-reinforced parts for automotive applications. It intends to develop tailor-made formulations in the areas of epoxy, polyurethane (PU) and polyamide (PA) and will be making a double-digit million euro investment in development in the coming years. The processing technology behind the new materials is Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM), which can be used to produce large and complex composite components in a single press-form operation. This involves placing multilayer fibre structures in a heated mould that is mounted in a press. A liquid resin is then injected into the mould, wetting the fibres completely and then curing in a controlled manner. BASF says its experts are working on the chemical and technical challenges posed by the new matrix solutions for RTM. The automotive components to be produced from these materials in the future will be able to withstand high loads despite their light weight. The good flow characteristics and short curing time of the resin components represent the primary challenges with all three material systems.
The Smart Forvision is painted in pearl white with aluminium flakes in the liquid metal paintwork to create a reflecting surface on the safety cell, changing between light and dark depending on the viewer’s perspective
Composites gaining interest Meanwhile, since everyone is talking about electric drives, researchers at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology have developed a durable, lightweight composite case for lithium-ion batteries that can be mass produced. The case was produced for the Artega GT sports car that was modified with an electric drive. The composite case weighs 35 kg, which is about 25% less than steel alternative. This, the institute says, will allow for a lighter electric vehicle plus allow it to be longer on the road without having to be plugged back into a power outlet. The case can also withstand a crash or even
Fraunhofer has developed a battery housing made of lightweight component materials
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Automotive Industry S t ru c t u r a l c h a s s i s o r b o d y c o m p o n e n t s c a n b e manufactured only from composite materials based on endless carbon or glass fibres, and require fibre contents of about 65 weight per cent. Endless fibres are already in use today in aircraft and wind power applications, in plant construction, in prototype construction and in short-run automotive applications. Carbon fibres impart very high stiffness as a reinforcing material and are thus of special interest. BASF has recently become a member of Carbon Composites e.V. (CCeV), a competence network for carbon fibres and fibre-reinforced composite technology that was established in 2007 and now has more than 120 members. In addition to the performance of a reinforcing material, price and availability are important for rapid introduction of matrix systems to the market since glass fibres show great potential here.
Inpro’s past projects have included developing backmoulded painted film mouldings that match painted steel bodywork for a previous shareholder BASF. In 2008, this technique was used in the black thermoplastic injection moulded roof element, made by Decoma, in the VW Passat car. Indian market booming In India, Peugeot will set up a manufacturing facility in Gujarat, investing some EUR650 million into this project. Peugeot says it will build a cutting edge vehicle facility on the 600-acre site, integrating body paint and assembly operations with an initial capacity of 170,000 vehicles/ year, with options for further expansion. Additionally, an engine and gearbox plant will help constitute it as a fully fledged modern industrial automotive facility. The first locally produced Peugeot car is expected in 2014. Another vehicle maker Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) is planning to further increase annual production capacity to meet the rapid growth of India’s market. The expansion will come with an additional 17.2 billion yen investment with capacity to be expanded to 310,000 units in 2013, up from a previously announced 210,000 units by the first half of 2012. Current capacity is 160,000 units. US-based Ford is also building an integrated manufacturing facility in Sanand, Gujarat, with an investment of US$1 billion. It will be able to initially produce 240,000 vehicles and 270,000 engines/year, with the first products scheduled to come off the line in 2014. The company expects to reach its goal of increasing worldwide sales by nearly 50% by mid-decade to 8 million vehicles/year, with this new facility. The new engine plant represents one of several new investments that Ford has made to support its aggressive expansion plan in India and throughout the globe. Earlier this year, Ford announced an investment of US$72 million by 2012 to expand its already operating powertrain facility in Chennai. The company says its total investment in India to date is around US$2 billion. It is also bringing eight new vehicles to India by mid-decade, the first one being the All-New Fiesta, which was launched in July. Another US company, DuPont, recently opened a technical centre in Pune that will focus on the local automotive sector. One of four new innovation centres for the materials company in Asia, it will focus on automotive topics including lightweighting, improved performance, sustainability, alternative drive, safety and comfort/design. In other news, Austrian injection moulding machine maker Engel Holding is setting up a technical and seminar centre near the Mumbai International Airport, in the Andheri East district. The facility will be used for machine demonstrations, customer trials, pre-production and for running mould trials. It will also include an expanded spare parts warehouse. ◆
According to BASF, the next major advance in lightweight automotive applications will be achieved through the use of fibre-reinforced highperformance composites. Such materials make it possible to develop parts that are very light and strong at the same time and provide an efficient way to combine metal, fibre reinforcement and plastic
The overall system consisting of plastic matrix and fibre reinforcement must be readily adoptable for mass production. Compared to conventional metal components, they will contribute to a weight reduction of about 50%. Established technologies that embed metal inserts or endless fibre-reinforced thermoplastic mats and UD tape (unidirectional fibre reinforcement) in plastic complement the new approach. Technology firm gets another stakeholder Elsewhere, materials supplier Sabic Innovative Plastics has bought a stake in German automotive technology and innovation company Inpro, which also has other shareholders like car makers Daimler and Volkswagen, electrical/ electronics firm Siemens, steel company ThyssenKrupp and the Federal German state of Berlin. Set up in 1983, Inpro focuses on developing new technology for the automotive industry, with its focus being electro-mobility and new automotive drive systems such as batteries and fuel cells. 3
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