Ford and DowAksa are accelerating joint research to develop high-volume manufacturing techniques – aiming to make vehicles lighter for greater fuel efficiency, performance and capability.
The companies will be part of the newly formed Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, created by the U.S. government. The institute is part of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The mission of the institute and the goal of Ford’s collaboration with DowAksa – a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Company and Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş. – is to overcome the high cost and limited availability of carbon fibre, while developing a viable, high-volume manufacturing process.
Ford and DowAksa also are working on reducing the energy needed to produce carbon fibre components, cutting the cost of raw materials and developing recycling processes.
Ford and Dow Chemical began working together in 2012 to develop low-cost, high-volume carbon fibre composites. Also in 2012, the European Ford Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, investigated new production processes to reduce cycle times for carbon fibre components through the Hightech.NRW research project.
Engineers in Aachen work closely with their colleagues in the U.S. on a wide range of projects involving advanced materials and carbon fibre, including collaborative research into corrosion and corrosion-fatigue analysis of joints with metals supporting the use of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic parts in mixed material bodies.
“Our goal is to develop a material that can greatly reduce vehicle weight in support of improved fuel economy for our customers,” said Patrick Blanchard, Ford supervisor, Composites Group. “The flexibility of the technology allows us to develop materials for all vehicle subsystems across the product line – resulting in a weight saving of more than 50 per cent compared to steel.”
Current Ford products that apply a light-weighting philosophy include the Fiesta – which uses high-strength, lightweight boron steel;the all-new 2015 Ford F-150 which uses high-strength aluminium alloy to help reduce weight by up to 300 kilogrammes.
The recent Ford Lightweight Concept Fusion applied lightweight materials as aluminium, high-strength steel, magnesium, composites and carbon fibre to nearly every vehicle system to reduce the car’s weight to that of a Fiesta – a near 25 per cent cut.