High Speed Carbon Fiber Molding
It’s easy to see the benefits of carbon fiber: light-weight, low density, high tensile strength, low thermal expansion. But material expenses coupled with lengthy process cycle times have made it a costly alternative to metals in the automotive industry. But a French company, RocTool (roctool.com), claims that it has developed an integrated internal induction technology, 3iTech, that provides cycle times that can make automotive panels in a competitive manner.
In the process, molds are electromagnetically heated to 120º C in seconds—or 400º C in minutes—by integrating inductors inside the mold to match the shape of the part to be produced. Not only is heat up fast, but so is cool-down, so repetitive production can occur. According to RocTool, the process is capable of producing high surface quality carbon fiber parts in minutes compared to typical production cycles that can last hours. Faster cycle times equals lower production costs, making carbon fiber a more cost-effective alternative to conventional metals for vehicle parts like hoods, roofs and exterior panels.
How carbon fiber is utilized is as different as the vehicles on which it is used. From full carbon tubs to partial panels to welded steel tube sandwich structures, the only limitation is imagination.
Sandy Munro and his team of engineers and costing analysts at Munro & Associates were contacted by UBS Research—an arm of the giant banking and investment firm—and asked whether it was possible to do a teardown and cost assessment of the Chevrolet Bolt EV.
Have economies of scale come to the production of automotive parts with carbon fiber materials?