Automotive takes the centre stage

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JEC Asia Composites Show & Conferences, held in Singapore from 20-22 October, wrapped up its 8th annual session with growth in attendance from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and China — which this year was the Country Guest of Honour.

The Asian composites market amounts to SG$44.28 billion. In value, it represented 43% of the worldwide market in 2014. The demand made on materials has become greater in Asia. Investment in composites has increased and relative costs have improved. This is driving higher growth in both innovation and composites consumption in Asia,” said Frédérique Mutel, JEC Group President/CEO, at the opening.

Mutel also highlighted the breakthroughs achieved by the sector in the recycling of composites and mass manufacturing of composite parts for the automotive sector.

Besides the exhibition, the edition included three keynote speeches, innovation awards, conferences, an aerospace leadership circle, a demo zone, new products exhibits, posters session, as well as tours visits to Tempco Manufacturing and Singapore Polytechnic.

Automotive parts showcase

Since lightweighting in vehicles is linked to lower CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy, the automotive sector took up a large part of the new product exhibits at the show, with some futuristic developments.

  • Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) displayed the NV II solar vehicle, which was designed and built by students and competed in the World Solar Challenge (WSC) in 2011. It features 6 sq m of monosilicone cells to provide 1.2 kW peak power, up to speeds of 70 km/hour. It also features a 25 kg lithium ion battery pack to power 400 km of the race, with the remainder powered by sunlight. The body shell is made entirely of carbon fibre-reinforced composite, to render a weight of 160 kg. The car was placed at 12th position out of 35 teams in the WSC race in 2011.

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  • TUM Germany and SGL Group’s front end is produced 100% in thermoplastic composites using an industrial injection moulding machine. The main part is built up of nylon 6 and long fibre-reinforced thermoplastics (LFTs). Dedicated geometries are reinforced by unidirectional tapes and multi-directional organic sheets, processed in one shot parallel with the injection moulding.

  • South Korea’s SH-Global’s SH-INP material was shown used in a door trim with 10% lower weight. The material consists of PP, EPDM, additives and 10-15% cellulose biomass.

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  • SH-Global was also promoting its SH-Tec material that is being field tested in one of the models of General Motor’s vehicles. With compression moulding, it offers lower heating of 220°C to save energy. The company says it can replace traditional glass fibre for a similar part made from PU. It is a sandwich construction of thermoplastics with natural fibre composite layers and a thermal expandable layer. Material shrinkage is controlled by the pre-heating process to improve formability of the part.

  • Another South Korean company Dongsung Chemical showed a long carbon fibre-reinforced thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) seat frame manufactured using a compression/injection back moulding process. The company says it is currently working with a South Korean Tier 1 manufacturer to commercialise the technology.

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  • Hanwha Advanced Materials Group teamed up with Hyundai Motor last year to develop what it says is the world’s first hybrid front bumper. It is created by inserting a steel frame into glass mat-reinforced thermoplastic (GMT) – made from PP and glass fibre, thus, improving crashworthiness of vehicles and is also 12% lighter than steel bumper beams.

  • Yet another South Korean processor One Kwang Entec used carbon fibre braiding and the resin transfer moulding (RTM) process to develop prototype drive shafts and CVT joint assemblies for use in a luxury sedan. The company is working with SsangYong Motor to commercialise the technology.

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  • TUM Germany partnered with Roding Automobile to produce a CFRP door structure for the Roding Roadster in RTM, weighing only 3.4 kg. Functional integration allows for complex geometry, with all the parts assembled directly to the door structure shell. It also features a high-end finish with exposed weave surface layer.

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  • Yet another feature from TUM is the SMC rim, designed together with Blackwave Composites. The 10-in. rim was designed for the student racing series. It is made from carbon fibre sheet moulding compound with a fibre weight fraction of 60% and an epoxy resin. It is manufactured in a small series production, with the cycle time from raw material to finished part of 11 minutes. The process’s main benefits are that no material wastage for net shape moulding, easy preforming and geometrical design freedom, with a high degree of automation.

Lamborghini’s carbon fibre research

Luciano de Oto, Head of Lamborghini’s carbon fibre research, presented a paper on the sports car maker’s participation in the Newspec project. The project costs EUR10 million, with EU contributing EUR7.4 million to the project, and was set up by a consortium of 13 partners from the automotive, clean energy, aerospace and oil and gas sectors in 2013.

Newspec (New cost-effective and Sustainable Polyethylene-based carbon fibre for volume market applications) aims at the production of advanced carbon fibre through promising, low-cost and sustainable precursors, such as PE, both derived from bio-ethanol and recycled PE with relevant benefits to environmental and economic sustainability. The goal is to complete the project by 2018.


Lamborghini itself has a long history of using automotive composites, starting with a prototype composite monocoque in 1983. It is now on the road to completely replacing prepreg methods with its own advanced technologies, such as forged composites, thermoplastic composites and nano-composites.


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