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Two years after its launch, BMW’s i3 is the best-selling electric car in Germany and the third best-selling globally; sales figures that seem to support BMW’s decision to opt for carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in the production of this vehicle.

However, a barrier to the wider use of textile-reinforced polymer composites in the automotive industry is the lack of an economic, high-volume manufacturing process for parts with complicated shapes.

In our latest feature, composites editor Amanda Jacob takes a detailed look at the 3D-LightTrans project, and finds that hybrid yarns combined with advanced weaving technologies could provide a solution.

Indeed, there have been a number of interesting developments surrounding the use of composites in automotive applications in recent weeks:

  • Bentley Motors Ltd, Emerald Automotive LLC and Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd are to work with a UK consortium to manufacture composite components in medium-to-high volumes, at affordable prices;
  • Cytec Industries Inc of Woodland Park, New Jersey, USA, has acquired an equity position in Penso Holdings Ltd, an engineering services, vehicle conversion and composite part manufacturing company based in Coventry, UK;
  • a glass- and carbon fibre-reinforced epoxy resin system from Hexion Inc has been used to produce panels for the Lotus 3-Eleven, resulting in weight savings of 40% compared with the carmaker's other models;
  • a polyethersulphone (PESU) from Solvay Specialty Polymers is being used by Hankuk Carbon Co to improve the toughness, heat resistance and processing consistency of a thermoset composite prepreg.

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Latest Features

A barrier to the wider use of textile-reinforced polymer composites is the lack of an economic, high-volume manufacturing process for parts with complicated shapes. Hybrid yarns combined with advanced weaving could provide a solution, reports Amanda Jacob.

While there is a lot of publicity regarding the growing use of carbon fibre in cars(1), the automotive market has a long way to go to catch up with the biggest user of the material—the aerospace and defence sector. Joining our team of regular contributors, Composites Editor Amanda Jacob summarizes the findings of the latest report on the global markets for carbon fibre and carbon composites.

Glass and other speciality fibres, such as aramids, have been used for many years as reinforcements for composites. Carbon fibre, however, is now very much the focus of the industry, particularly  for automotive end-uses, according to Adrian Wilson.