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Ford accelerate carbon fibre research

By Kyle Linsay
Thursday, February 12, 2015 - 14:05

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The all-new Ford GT uses lightweight materials, including carbon fibre

Innovation enables acceleration of Ford research and development of low-cost, high-volume carbon fibre which could reduce vehicle weight, increase fuel efficiency without sacrificing strength

Ford Motor Company has announced a significant new collaboration to develop manufacturing innovations in automotive-grade carbon fibre for use in future products.

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.

“Our collaboration with DowAksa and participation in this organisation significantly boosts what we are able to achieve,” said Ken Washington, Ford vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering. “We have a true alliance of highly talented people working to take automotive materials to the next level.”

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 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.

Carbon fibre composites have been used in aircraft and racing cars for decades because they provide high strength with extremely low weight. It is possible to tailor strength properties to a specific component – making it as stiff or flexible as needed for a given application.

Ford last month revealed the all-new Ford GT supercar that makes extensive use of lightweight materials, including carbon fibre and aluminium – enabling outstanding acceleration and handling with improved efficiency. With the broad application of structural carbon fibre elements, the GT will exhibit one of the best power-to-weight ratios of any production car.

“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.”

Ford and DowAksa also are working together to reduce the energy needed to produce carbon fibre components, cut the cost of raw materials and develop recycling processes.

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