New carbon composite components manufacturing process
A new process from Prodrive will make carbon composite components easier to incorporate into premium and luxury vehicle interiors. Features normally added in a separate operation, such as clips and inserts for threaded fasteners, can now be molded directly onto the back of high quality composite panels, producing a more cost-effective part than a conventional bonded assembly, and one with greater mechanical strength. Already producing parts for the first two production applications, both premium automotive interiors, the process removes a major barrier to the wider use of composites.
“One of the challenges of using carbon composite panels is the provision of fastenings for their attachment, which can lead to costly, intricate components,” explained Prodrive Composites engineering manager, Gary White. “Conventional solutions involve creating a complex carbon shape to carry the fittings. By molding onto the finished composite, we can match the convenience of an injection-molded plastic part at a fraction of the cost, while providing the low weight, strength and superb display surface of carbon.”
In most automotive applications, Prodrive supplies the vehicle manufacturer directly, satisfying high quality demands, especially for prominent interior surfaces. “Our customers are seeking cosmetic perfection on all exposed surfaces, backed by a number of environmental and climatic tests to ensure durability even in the most demanding climates,” said White. “Parts made using our new process have passed the full range of OEM tests and we are now ramping up to supply production vehicles.”
“We operate as the engineering partner for many customers, providing much more than just components,” said White. “We have established quite a track record for developing new processes that allow composites to be used more effectively. In 2009 we launched the lacquer-free finish that resists stone chips and UV deterioration. Earlier this year we launched colored composites. Now we have integrated molded plastic features onto composite panels. The common factor is in helping to make our customers’ products more competitive – you can’t stand still in this business.”
Source: Prodrive Composites
Placing carbon composites parts in the vehicle interior is a costly solution to reduce weight and might be used only for some premium performance car. According to you, which two OEMs have chosen this breakthrough process solution to use carbon interior parts?