New carbon composites deal spurs doubling of capacity
Leading composite materials, engineering, tooling, parts, and systems provider Guri (Zürich, Switzerland) has secured a second supply contract from a sports car manufacturer in the Italian market, prompting it to move to doubling capacity by mid-year at its plans for automotive parts manufacturing in Newport, UK. Prototype deliveries of the new composite parts will commence in Q1 2013, with series supply starting in the second half of the year. The entire contract is worth some EUR 1.5 million ($2 million).
The continued demand for Gurit’s high-end Sprint CBS (Car Body Sheet) components in the UK, German and Italian markets has resulted in the need to further expand its existing parts manufacturing capacity at its UK site. The expansion will start in Q1 2013 and will be completed by the summer, doubling the overall automotive composite car parts production capacity.
CBS is said to be a unique composite structure for car body panels. The combination of two layers of fiber reinforcement, one above and one below a syntactic resin core, results in stiffness properties similar to those of an I-beam. While CBS panels match the stiffness of typical steel or aluminum body panels, they minimize the needed layers of carbon fiber reinforcement, reducing both mass and cost of the component. The final layer of CBS is an in-mold primer layer; this layer reportedly enables CBS to far exceed the surface quality of standard composite materials neutralizing fiber read-though and providing an excellent surface for paint.
The combined cure ply thickness is 1.8 mm, and the panels are 80% lighter than steel of the same thickness. Martin Starkey, Managing Director of Gurit Automotive, commented: “Securing our second series programme in Italy so quickly after the first, is further proof for the technology and skills we provide our customers. Clearly, the trend towards the adoption of carbon fiber composite parts in automotive continues to grow at a considerable pace. To ensure we can maintain our market leading position as an advanced composite parts Tier 1 supplier, I am also pleased to announce the next expansion of our manufacturing capacity in our UK site.”
Traditionally, high cost composite processing with autoclaves has restricted the use of advanced composites to very short runs below 250 parts per annum. Gurit’s developments in both tooling and material processing, however have increased this threshold so that light-weight high quality surface panels can be considered economically viable for vehicle build rates up to 3,000 parts per annum.
For higher volumes, Gurit employs nickel tooling and a built-in vacuum circuit and thermal fluid circulation enables that responds sensitively to programmed cure cycle temperature ramps, thereby enabling an approximate 80 minute cure cycle to produce fully cured, dimensionally controlled ‘A’ and ‘B’ surface CBS panels.