Automotive industry on the eve of composite series production
The acquisition of Amber Composites (UK) at the beginning of 2013 has given TenCate accelerated access to the market for automotive composites. These materials form one of the key points within the TenCate business development strategy. The focus is on those parts of the vehicle that have an effect on its safety and structure. These materials are subject to stringent requirements. Meanwhile a number of interesting development projects have been initiated. The demonstrators resulting from this work will in the future have to find their way into new types of vehicles.
The European Commission has determined that in 2020 CO2 emission standards will have to have been reduced by 40%, vis-à-vis the level of 2007. This will force car manufacturers (OEMs) to look for weight savings. Compared with traditional materials, composite is 30-50 percent lighter and thus eminently suited to help achieve this weight saving. TenCate has occupied a leading position in thermoplastic composite technology for well over 30 years. This material is increasingly being used in the aerospace industry; the automotive market is much greater and more diverse. Thermoplastic composite is ideal for use in series production, but it does require adaptation of the production chain of (structural) parts. This is because OEMs are not yet geared to the processing of this type of advanced material. By contrast, in the sports car market and in car racing, apart from steel, there is almost exclusive use of thermoset composites.
Together with Kringlan Composites, TenCate is engaged in providing solutions for the automated manufacture of parts based on thermoplastic composite technology. The most significant development at this time is a fully carbon-reinforced composite wheel for cars in the upper segment. This wheel has a strong weight-saving effect and reduces the unsprung mass of the vehicle. Tests show that in terms of material stress the demonstrator of the wheel meets extremely high safety and integrity requirements. The market release is expected this year and limited series production will be possible about twelve months later.
A prototype of a composite bottom plate has been made jointly with Voestalpine Polynorm. A traditional steel plate weighs 22 kilos; when produced in composite, this weighs less than 10 kilos.
TenCate and the Adler Group (Naples, Italy) have recently signed an agreement
for the exclusive supply of TenCate E700 carbon-fibre prepreg for the Alfa Romeo 4C platform (photo: Ripley & Ripley). This material from TenCate Advanced Composites UK is used for the production of the entire monocoque: the passenger compartment. This reduces its weight and gives the vehicle an extremely stiff and safe basic structure. TenCate has been supplying the Adler Group with this material for the production of this car for some time. For logistical reasons, the intention is for material production to be carried out locally. For TenCate this agreement represents its first OEM project of this size in the automotive industry. More than three thousand cars of this type are expected to be manufactured annually.