The Truth About Cars » CFRP The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:23:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » CFRP A Look at BMW Carbon Fiber Production for the i3 Electric Car Thu, 17 Oct 2013 13:00:40 +0000

Click here to view the embedded video.

One of our readers, Noble713, commenting on a news items about the BMW i3, asked if TTAC could provide more coverage on BMW’s carbon fiber productions methods. The i3 EV, and upcoming i8, are built upon CFRP structures. Weight is the enemy of electric vehicles. The more weight you can take out of the actual structure of the car, the more battery cells you can carry for more power and better range, hence BMW turning to carbon fiber. It turns out that BMW has released a series of videos (bilingual, wait for the English) on that very topic. Their CFRP production uses materials made by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW and SGL groups and the effort spans the globe. SGL has expertise in carbon fiber and in 2011 BMW took a 15% stake in the company. Pure polyacrylonitrile fibers are made by Mitsubishi Rayon Co. in Japan and shipped to a state of the art SGL ACF factory in Moses Lake, Washington, where the PAN fibers are first oxidized and then baked into carbon. Wound on spools, the raw carbon fiber is shipped to a SGL ACF facility in Wackersdorf, Germany, were the carbon fibers are woven (actually sewn) into fabrics. The fabrics in turn go to BMW’s Landshut facility were they are laminated in the proper orientations, resins are added, patterns are cut and the finished parts are molded.

Click here to view the embedded video.

BMW has been publicizing how environmentally sensitive their CFRP manufacturing is, stressing how the Washington state facility is powered by renewable hydro power.

While carbon fiber is regarded as almost magical stuff because of its superior strength to weight ratio and the ability to orient the fabric so the resulting parts are stiff in some directions and flexible in other directions, it is still relatively costly to work with, compared to aluminum and steel. Like the CFRP shop at Toyota’s LFA works, BMW is using carbon fiber for the i3 and i8 not just because of those inherent characteristics but also so they can develop processes for the inexpensive mass production of CFRP parts.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Hackenberg: Carbon Fiber Still Too Slow For Mass Produced Cars, But Getting There Wed, 26 Jun 2013 00:54:23 +0000 IMG_8658

Volkswagen’s  R&D chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg is cautiously optimistic about the use of carbon fiber technologies in volume cars. Said Hackenberg today in Wolfsburg:

“Carbon fiber technology is still too expensive for volume cars. For some parts of the car it will make sense in the near future.Looking at the CPO2 and emission limits there are some areas in the car that will make sense. But not in the whole car.”

One area of the car that is likely to see carbon fiber components is the roof of the car. A CFRP roof can not just shave lbs off the car, it can also improve its ride. Explained Hackenberg:

“If I change a roof from steel to carbon fiber, I can save some 10 kg. If you have a low weight in the roof area, you lower the center of gravity, that’s good for the car.”

Hackenberg  said Volkswagen is testing the use of aluminum sheets and carbon fiber sheets for the next generation of the Passat, “and we have found ways to use these materials in a normal transfer facility to build a normal car.” The challenge here are new joining techniques that mate non-weldable CFRP with other materials such as aluminum or steel. The other challenge is to make CFRP parts fast enough to keep up with a mass-produced vehicle.

As we have seen in the report from the inside of the LFA production, pre-preg CFRP can take hours to assemble, and even more hours  to cure in the autoclave.

Hackenberg explained a technology, first used in the Porsche 918, where “the lower parts of  the safety cabin, up to the bottom of the A pillars, are done in one shot. We have a tool that closes, the CFRP material is brought into this form, the form is closed, then you inject the resin. Takes half an hour.”

This is still too slow for mass production, but Hackenberg hopes to bring down cycle times  to a few minutes, which would be similar to what  a roof from hot formed steel would take.


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Remember This Top Secret Facility? You Have Been There Sat, 16 Feb 2013 17:11:49 +0000

After Toyota ended production of the Lexus LFA and closed a chapter of supercar history, National Geographic aired its documentary as part of its Megafactories series. “Up until now, no television cameras have ever been allowed inside this top secret facility,” says the film. The words were carefully chosen. You, the TTAC readers, had been there long before the film went on air.

TTAC readers will find many familiar scenes and faces in the National Geographic documentary about the “top secret megafactory” at the Motomachi plant. As the first reporters to receive full access to the running production of the LFA, TTAC published a five part report about the making of the LFA in July of 2012.

Who are the masked men?

On December 15 2012, the last of 500 LFA, a white Nürburg Ring Edition, left the assembly plant in Motomachi. After that, the plant was shut down. Most of its 170 workers were assigned to other tasks at Motomachi. A small team is taking care of the 500 LFA customers.

This is the man whose insistence and persistence had made the TTAC story possible: LFA Deputy Chief Engineer Chiharu Tamura. Here, we catch him in a private moment at the Bridgestone booth of the Tokyo Auto Salon. The lifelong chassis man says good-bye to his work and the street-spec Bridgestone Potenza tire fitted to the LFA. Chief Engineer Tanahashi and Tamura had insisted on using the standard tire during the LFA’s attempt on the Nordschleife in September 2011. They refused to fudge with racing slicks. With seven minutes, 14.64 seconds, the LFA clocked the fastest Ring time among the bona-fide production models. A week later, the record was ruined by a Dodge Viper ACR . Its alleged slicks and splitter keep discussion forums buzzing to this day. Don’t worry, the LFA won’t be back.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Tamura-san.

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Sayonara, LFA Mon, 17 Dec 2012 10:58:28 +0000

LFA Chief Engineer Haruhiko Tanahashi says good-bye

As intimated last week, Toyota’s production of its LFA supercar is coming to an end. On Friday, LFA #500 left the assembly line at the secretive LFA Works in Toyota’s Motomachi plant. After a week of testing, the car will be delivered to its undisclosed owner.

The 500th and last LFA

The owner is most likely Japanese, because the color of the 500th LFD is whitest white, the LFA’s most popular color, especially en vogue with Japanese customers. It is also the LFA’s trickiest paint job: The base coat is covered with a layer that shines in blue and white under fluorescent light, on top of that comes an enamel coat that in turn is covered by a clear coat.

The owner of the 500thLFA also has ample cash, or at least he did before he paid the bill. His LFA is a Nürburgring Edition (as evidenced by the winglet), $70,000 more bought 11 extra horses and a nice silver-colored oil filter instead of the regulation champagne-colored part.

The autoclave. A giant pressure cooker that limits the Lexus LFA production to one per day

The LFA, went into production at the LFA Works in December 2010 on a make-to-order basis. Mainly limited by the through-put of the autoclave, where pre-preg  CFRP parts had to cure for eight hours, only one LFA per day could be produced .

One of two circular looms on the planet. 12 layers of seamless carbon fiber are woven into what will be part T3-3RH, part A-pillar, part roof support

Sadly, it will be getting very quiet at LFA Kobo, as the  LFA Works are called internally. The LFA does not have a successor, nor is anything planned “at the moment,” as we hear from Toyota’s Tokyo spokesperson Shino Yamada.

Fender being fitted to the non-monocoque LFA

Most of the 170 workers are assigned to other tasks at Motomachi. Clean room, presses, and the monster autoclave will be used to make parts to supply the 500 LFA in use, and possibly to go into new cars made by Toyota elsewhere. Last we heard, the team did bid to make the roof of car to be built in the Toyota empire. Decision unknown.

This reporter is being vacuumed to protect the LFA’s carbon fiber from filth and grime

TTAC is proud of having received unprecedented access to the LFA works. I was the first reporter who was given free roam of the facilities during series production, camera in hand.You could get into the halls of the LFA if you bought one, but your photographic equipment had to be kept outside. Automotive News’s Tokyo Correspondent Hans Greimel was, according to our knowledge, the only other reporter who was let in. He visited the LFA Works in the final months of production and is still writing his story. Look forward to it.

Different types of CFRP are used for different loads

Apart from making 500 LFA supercars, the facility gained Toyota many years of precious experience with CRFP production. Carbon fiber composite production is the new frontier of car making, and the LFA is one of the few cars with a body made mostly from CFRP, and with most of the body made from hand-laid pre-preg, the most expensive and laborious  kind of CFRP.

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BMW And Boeing In Carbon Fiber Alliance Wed, 12 Dec 2012 12:34:29 +0000

BMW and Boeing will share know-how about making carbon fiber. BMW says it signed a collaboration agreement “to participate in joint research for carbon fiber recycling as well as share manufacturing knowledge and explore automation opportunities.”

Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is 50 percent made of carbon fiber material. With the release of the BMW i3 in late 2013, followed later by the BMW i8, the BMW Group will bring two vehicles with a carbon passenger cell onto the market. BMW is heavily invested in industry leader SGL.

Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel, a key factor to help cut vehicle weight and fuel consumption. CFRP has an unsurpassed strength-to-stiffness-to-weight ratio. CFRP also is extremely expensive, mainly due to its long cycle time. A press can crank out metal car parts in mere seconds, a CFRP part can take many hours to cure. Making CFRP affordable and suitable for mass production is the big challenge.

CFRP technology also is rumored to be part of BMW’s alliance with Toyota. Toyota has developed significant carbon fiber expertise in-house. The Lexus LFA supercar is made from 65 percent carbon fiber and 35 percent aluminum. However, the buzzle at LFA Works is dying down, with the last LFAs leaving the factory as we write this. From what we are hearing, there is no follow-up work in the LFA Works just yet.

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