The creation and use of composite materials is a fairly simple to understand concept. Basically, a composite is the mixing of separate materials designed to create one material.
Before going into the role composites play in the automotive industry, it’s important to understand how composites can benefit us in other ways. Composites can be very environmentally friendly. Take into consideration the use of compressed wood, a byproduct of wood scraps which would otherwise be useless. By compressing the pieces of scrap wood, a cheaper more cost effective product can be created. Compressed wood composites are often used when making low cost shelving for desks, entertainment centers and boxes.
By creating one single product from the combination of others, in many cases, a stronger, more effective product is the end result. Such is the case when creating composite molding for vehicles.
When it comes to using composites in the production of parts for vehicles, a variety of materials as well as chemicals are combined to produce a molding which is not only strong, but can withstand the forces of wind and other elements.
The use of composite materials in vehicles has become extremely popular if not necessary in producing vehicles that can withstand the speed they are pushed to. Composites are popular in their use in not only vehicles, but also on construction sites,dental offices and other applications.
So, now that we have ascertained what and how composites are designed for and their uses, it’s easy to understand how these materials could benefit us and our vehicles. They are lighter, more flexible and have added benefit’s that steel can’t offer. Interestingly, the first car produced using composite materials was created in 1957.
The Lotus Elite was constructed using several glass reinforced plastic moldings to create a composite monocoque. Before composite monocoques were employed in cars, the GRP (glass reinforced plastic) was a popular method for constructing light weight vehicles. At around the same time the Lotus Elite was created using this new method of utilizing monocoque composites, other sporting good products like fishing poles also began using the same method.
The method of using composites to create molding for cars, especially cars designed for speed, was actually derived from another natural composite.
Trees, which have a makeup of fibers and resin are a natural composite. Their ability to sway under the force of wind gives them a unique combination of strength and flexibility. Following this same natural concept of trees, manufacturers of composite materials found that using other components could also produce the same results if not better.
Over the years, composite materials have been used and experimented with to make a stronger lightweight material used in cars, boats and aerospace equipment.
In the early 1990′s numerous super-cars like the Jaguar XJ220 and the Bugatti EB110 used a variety of composite materials for their body structure. The Jaguar XJ220 used an aluminum mixture while the Bugatti EB110 used a combination of aluminum, carbon panels as well as steel.
So, you can see, composite use in cars actually have a long history, dating back over fifty years. The super-car manufacturers understood the unique ability composites had to help make cars stronger, lighter and more effective considering the circumstances.
Carbon Fiber Chassis is a popular method of constructing some of the coolest cars on the block. While some cars that use this method are not solely used for racing, their body styles and composite makeup make street legal cars like the Mclaren MP4-12C a popular choice for high end car enthusiast. While the price for producing these cars and the sticker price are somewhat high, these cool cars are sure to draw a crowd.
Additionally, the automotive industry currently sees carbon fiber composites as the wave of the future when producing cars that are Eco-friendly. Speculation on the rising demand for composite moldings used in vehicles predicts that by the year 2017 the market for composites is likely to rise to $95.5 million dollars(US).
The reason for the demand you ask? Well, put simply, the demand for vehicles with better fuel efficiency as well as low carbon fuel emissions standards make the use of carbon fiber composites a top choice. So, with this said, were’ sure to see more vehicles produced with lightweight composites in the future, and we aren’t just talking high end vehicles.
So, there you have it, a brief rundown on how composites are used in the automotive industry. Admittedly, composites have been utilized for a long time in the industry, however with changing emission standards and ongoing research to make a stronger more effective composite, there’s sure to be improvements. That is, if it’s possible.
The last couple decades have shown us how far we can push the limits when it comes to producing cars that can push the envelope. Composite materials have been proven to withstand some pretty intense heat and speed as proven in our aerospace technology. The old saying, “the sky’s the limit” rings so true when working with composite materials for our automotive industry. The coming years should prove to be interesting, especially when it comes to carbon fiber composite moldings and the cool vehicles that are created by their use. Stay tuned!