Lightweight materials and design are becoming increasingly important in many industries, playing an especially significant role in the automotive industry where the use of lightweight materials is anticipated to double over the next 20 years.
Although advanced high strength steels make up the bulk of this growth, composite materials will play an increasing role in OEM strategies. Originally focused on Formula 1 vehicles 30 years ago, today the application of composites has also been extended to luxury and premium vehicles for low volume production and are beginning to infiltrate the mass market.
The use of carbon fiber components offers the highest level of weight reduction.
Additionally, use of composites can reduce the number of components required within a vehicle. Manufacturing a body panel or a component becomes a simpler process that uses fewer production stages that can result in lower manufacturing costs. For example:
So, the benefits of composites go beyond weight savings. Carbon fiber also offers new degrees of styling flexibility in vehicle design, providing more opportunity for differentiation. And, these materials are more resistant to dents and dings than aluminum, steel or thermoplastics.