The use of composite materials is rapidly entering into the automotive industry thanks to a technique developed by a spin-off. This technique promises lighter cars that burn less fuel and, consequently, emit less CO2.
In 2013, we may see car bumpers, doors, and frames made from composite materials, which are engineered or naturally occurring materials such as fiberglass made from two or more constituents with different physical or chemical properties. Since new composites are more durable and yet still lighter than their metal counterparts, they make for lighter cars that consume less gas and release less CO2.
Read For Mass Production
Until now, composites laid down in fiber and resin have been reserved for aeronautics, sailing, or Formula 1 racing because of the complexity of their production. But the auto-industry has long been interested in getting these materials into mass production. The problem has been the time required to make these components. Now, EELCEE, an EPFL spin-off company, has developed a process that allows for the fabrication of composite parts quickly and in large quantities.
The EELCEE technology, developed by Jan-Anders Månson and his team in the Laboratory of Composites and Polymers at EPFL, is based on the methods used for molding plastics: the desired material is pressure-injected into a compressed mold. For parts made from composite materials, the molds are first made, then the necessary filaments are created for carbon fiber or fiberglass materials. These are subsequently consolidated with resin and set aside to form a thin, flexible, and ultra-light framework. Finally, another layer of resin is injected into the mold.