Huge growth with slim cars: Twin fairs present lightweight trends
• ALUMINIUM and COMPOSITES EUROPE provide an insight of the future where the automobile is concerned
• Lightweight construction opens up new growth markets for the supply industry and plant construction
By 2030, controlling CO2 emissions will ensure triple digit growth rates for lightweight automotive construction - that is the outcome of a study presented at the beginning of this year by the management consultancy McKinsey & Company. Accordingly, so as to compensate for the increase in vehicle weight due to electric power trains and fuel efficient engine technology, automobile manufacturers will have to increase the ratio of lightweight components in vehicles by 2030 from 30 to 70 per cent.
Consequently, a new growth market will be created for the supply industry and plant construction. The experts predict that based on the development in prices for raw materials, the annual sales of lightweight components from high-tensile steel, aluminium and carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CRP) will grow by 2030 from around 70 billion to over 300 billion euros. At the twin fairs ALUMINIUM and COMPOSITES EUROPE, which are taking place in Düsseldorf from 9 to 11 October 2012, the spotlight will be on these lightweight construction solutions of CRP and aluminium for the automotive sector. The dual exhibition will thus offer an insight into the developments which the authors of the study predict for the years to come.
The experts from McKinsey conclude that the more expensive the vehicle, the better the opportunities for growth for lightweight materials such as aluminium and CRP. Accordingly, hybrid metal-plastic combinations with a high ratio of aluminium and/or magnesium and a small proportion of carbon and/or glass fibre reinforced plastics will make the running in the luxury category, since 5 to 14 euros in cost per kilogram of reduced weight will also make this worthwhile. By comparison, fibre reinforced plastics will be increasingly used in the luxury segment. For the still small CRP market, the experts calculate by 2030 a growth rate of 20 per cent, provided the possible 70 per cent reduction in costs to up to 15 euros per kilogram is achieved.
Hybrid welded combination of aluminium and steel
Exhibitors who are already promoting innovative solutions for lightweight automobiles will be on display at the ALUMINIUM. For example, the Leiber Group recently presented a hybrid welded drive flange, which makes possible a saving in weight of around 47 per cent through a combination of aluminium and steel. With their newly developed hybrid welding process, Leiber has succeeded in additionally reducing the weight and enabling the use of lightweight components. Thanks to the welded connections, high-tensile components of aluminium and steel, which resist over 4,000 Nm dyn are produced.
Coatings protect against corrosion
AHC Oberflächentechnik has developed two new coating systems, which extend the possibilities for corrosion-proof finishing of functional aluminium surfaces, in particular cast alloys, and are being marketed under the name GLISS-COAT®. This consists of a combination of hard anodized aluminium plus PFA, respectively of a PFA double coating. Aluminium castings coated in this way can resist concentrated acid attacks consisting of vapours and fluids over a sufficiently long period of time. Possible applications for the coating are, for example, components in car engines that conduct exhaust gases, so as to protect against so-called internal engine corrosion.
Mercedes SL with aluminium body
One of the suppliers on display in Düsseldorf is Martinrea Honsel, which supplies the cast side members as well as the side and floor sections of aluminium for the new Mercedes SL. Almost the complete body of the super sports car is made from this alloy. The side members, which are 1,120 mm x 585 mm x 360 mm in size, weigh just 14 kilograms and are exceptionally stabile so as to comply with the high crash requirements. The elements fitted on the left and right in the vehicle are produced by means of the low pressure die casting process, which is characterized by low-turbulence filling of the die. The required fine-grained and pore-free structure is thus achieved, so as to be able to heat treat and weld the component.
Tesla Model S: Aluminium reduces the total weight by half
Alcoa, a company that is also one of the exhibitors in Düsseldorf, supplied the aluminium for the new Model S from Tesla Motors. Structural components, outer skin, doors, hoods, luggage compartment - virtually all the visible metal parts of this electric runabout consist of aluminium which reduces the overall weight of the vehicle by half, which in turn increases energy efficiency and thus the range. 5,000 units of the vehicle, which can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than six seconds and, with its fully electric drive, can achieve a range of up to 480 kilometres, are to be sold by the end of the year.
Vehicle racking made completely from composite materials
Lightweight automotive construction is a mega topic not only at the ALUMINIUM but also at COMPOSITES EUROPE which is taking place at the same time. The fair provides a platform for numerous companies and research facilities which attract attention through their innovative developments in the composites sector. For example, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT), together with Sortimo International, has developed a state-of-the-art manufacturing technique that is unique worldwide in the industry. With Globelyst C, the first vehicle racking for commercial use has been produced completely from composite materials, and is mass-produced.
With a 40 per cent saving in weight, the new product is noticeably lighter than all previously produced vehicle racking systems. The material is not only extremely light and stabile, it is also water resistant and leakproof. It is also resistant to corrosion and damage due to escaping oils, corrosive solvents or acids. "Even though fibre composite materials are considerably more expensive than metal components, we are investing in this forward-looking technology", said the CEO of Sortimo, Reinhold Braun, during a presentation of the technology. "These additional costs can only be compensated for by integral design and lean processes."
New process for fully automated production
In addition, the ITC researchers have developed a new production process for the automotive industry. In this, they combine a braiding machine, which is normally used in the textile industry, with a further developed pultrusion facility. The dry carbon fibres are correctly shaped by the braiding machine; the pultrusion machine coats them with resin. The particular feature: Whilst everything had to be done manually until now - place fibres in the tool, align, spray in the resin - all stages now take place fully automatically. During the manual process, the individual components could only be produced step by step in a specific length. By comparison, the combination system produces the components continuously, theoretically infinitely.
BASF: First mass-produced components for automotive construction
BASF, which is also exhibiting in Düsseldorf, has extended its activities where lightweight automotive design is concerned. One example is the first mass-produced component of continuous fibre reinforced thermoplastic composite with Ultramid. This consists of a seat pan made from thermoplastic laminate with continuous fibre reinforcement ("organo sheet") for the new Opel Astra OPC. Two Ultramid specialties were developed for this: An non-reinforced grade acts as the material in which the glass fibre fabric is embedded, an impact-modified, short glass fibre reinforced Ultramid is used as over-moulding material to achieve the necessary ribs and edges of the part by means of classical injection moulding. Through the high strength of the laminate, the wall thicknesses can be reduced considerably, which leads to a 45 per cent reduction in weight.
In mid 2011, BASF went one step further towards plastic applications for the body and chassis with the establishment of the Lightweight Composites Team. The corporation is investigating, in parallel, the potential of the three plastic matrix systems of epoxy resin, PUR and polyamide with regard to the mass-production capability of infinite fibre reinforcement for the resin injection process, in particular for Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM). An initial demonstrator component for the RTM process is the concept study for a multipart cabriolet roof module in a sandwich design with CRP reinforced cover layers and a PUR foam core.
The central layer of the sandwich structure of the demonstrator is an Elastolit D closed-cell PUR structure foam. With low bulk density, it serves as a spacer between the laminate covering layers and thus produces extremely high component rigidity. In addition, it provides the roof module with good insulating characteristics. The roof segment, as a composite fibre sandwich concept with an overall weight of 2.6 kilograms, achieves a 40 per cent reduction in weight by comparison to one in aluminium and over 60 per cent against steel solutions.
Machine manufacturers have their eye on lightweight construction
At COMPOSITES EUROPE, machine manufacturers are increasingly looking at lightweight automotive construction. Thus, KraussMaffei offers for large-scale components for commercial vehicles and agricultural machinery the know-how for the LFI process (Long Fibre Injection) with In-Mould Painting, which is employed due to the high-grade surface and the reasonable investment costs. In addition, the company has developed a modular concept, which reflects the production of an automotive component from CRP using the HP-RTM process (high pressure - resin transfer moulding) in all operating stages throughout the process chain.
Dieffenbacher is also focusing its attention on advanced system concepts for the manufacture of lightweight body components for the automotive industry. Consequently, the company has developed a Preform Centre for the fully automated manufacture of 3D preforms from carbon fibres. With it, short cycle times are achievable during preform production. From the feed of the semi-finished carbon fibre textile via the precise cut and the binder application up to provision of the dry, stabile 3D preform, the complete process takes place fully automatically and with a reliable handling technique.
About the ALUMINIUM and COMPOSITES EUROPE 2012
From 9 to 11 October, the ALUMINIUM and COMPOSITES EUROPE form the most important lightweight summit of the year: At the Düsseldorf exhibition centre, both fairs demonstrate key technologies and applications for the market in lightweight construction materials. Together, both events expect over 1,300 exhibitors from over 50 countries. Integrating COMPOSITES EUROPE with the ALUMINIUM provides a range of synergies that will be especially beneficial for visitors from the construction, design and development sectors in the segments of automotive construction, aviation and aerospace, design and construction, ship and boat-building as well as from the wind power sector.
Download Foto 1 (jpg, 830 KB); The ITC researchers have developed a new manufacturing process for the automotive industry by combining a braiding machine with a pultrusion machine (Photo 2: ITC)
Download Foto 2 (jpg, 800 KB): Concept study of a multi-part cabriolet roof module. The component is built in a sandwich design with CRP reinforced cover layers and a PUR foam core (Photo 1: BASF)
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