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Ford Shows Prototype CFRP Bonnet, Wants to Introduce Carbon Fiber to Mass Production Cars

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Carbon fiber is up to five times as strong as steel, twice as stiff, and one-third the weight, which is why it has been widely used in aerospace applications and in the construction of racing cars.

Production models make use of this material as well; that is, if you consider a McLaren MP4-12C, a Pagani Huayra or a Ferrari Enzo a regular “production car". Carbon fiber is very expensive and takes a lot of time to produce, but those companies can afford to price their products accordingly.

The problem is that, so far, no manufacturer or supplier has managed to reduce its cost to a level that would make it suitable for regular, mass production vehicles.

Ford displayed a Focus bonnet made out of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) at the Composites Europe event held at Dusseldorf in Germany. The CFRP bonnet is more than 50 percent lighter than a conventional one made out of steel; and according to Ford’s European Research Center, it also has a relatively short production time so it can be used in regular assembly lines.

The Blue Oval is participating in the Hightech.NRW research project, teaming up with specialists from the Institute of Automotive Engineering at Aachen University, Henkel, Evonik, IKV, Composite Impulse and Toho Tenax.

The project, which has been running since 2010 and will continue until September 2013, aims to develop cost-effective methods for body panels made out of carbon fiber composites, meeting painting standards and reducing their production time.

“Reducing a vehicle’s weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption but a process for fast and affordable production of carbon fiber automotive parts in large numbers has never been available”, said Inga Wehmeyer, advanced materials and processes research engineer in Ford’s European Research Centre.

“By partnering with materials experts through the Hightech.NRW research project, Ford is working to develop a solution that supports cost efficient manufacturing of carbon fiber components.”

Ford said that, while the techniques that have been refined and developed for the prototype Focus bonnet will not be seen in production in the near future, they could be transferred to higher volume applications at a later date.

By Andrew Tsaousis


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Ford Develops Carbon Fibre TechnologyFord Develops Carbon Fibre TechnologyFord Develops Carbon Fibre TechnologyFord Develops Carbon Fibre Technology


4 Comments:

aaronbbrown said... »October 09, 2012

 It's a great idea whose time is overdue, carbon fiber is cheap to produce now, all it takes is the investment in manufacturing, and sheet metal will go the way of the dinosaur. Soon, 15 to 25 years, all our cars will be made entirely of carbon fiber and aluminum.   We are headed for a unibody that is so light, it can be picked up and carried by one person.  So a car that weighs in at 3200lbs now could be reduced to about 2600 lbs, and a 2700lb car, like the BRZ, will be about 2100lbs, and be a whole lot more fun to drive with a 200hp engine.

Factoid Killer said... »October 10, 2012

Crap carbon fiber is cheap, vehicle grade (hence crash worthy) carbon fiber isn't (yet).

"The problem is that, so far, no manufacturer or supplier has managed to reduce its cost to a level that would make it suitable for regular, mass production vehicles."

europeon said... »October 10, 2012

 The carbon fiber sheet itself it's cheap enough, what's expensive is the process of molding it into shape - especially something complicated like a unibody. That's why - if you pay attention - they're doing CF reinforced plastic panels.
They need to come up with a new approach on the manufacturing process like Apple did for the Macbook Air unibody aluminum chassis, but automotive manufacturers don't work with such big profit margins and they don't have the guts to do something revolutionary (although Ford is trying).

JW said... »October 10, 2012

Unless they paint it, I'll pass

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