But if manufacturing costs of producing such materials are high than automakers have to pass that costs to consumers. In order for the mass market to afford such materials, Ford has sought new, cost effective ways to develop carbon fibre.
Ford has collaborated with several companies and institutions to ultimately find new ways to develop carbon fibre that would be less expensive. Under the project name Hightech.NRW, Ford has partnered with Aachen University, Henkel, Evonik, IKV (The Institute of Plastics Processing at Aachen University), Composite Impulse and Toho Tenax.
And the name NRW comes from the German state North Rhine Westphalia which started funding the project in 2010. The project has five specific goals and they are:
- To develop a cost effective method for producing carbon fibre panels that will work with existing manufacturing processes.
- To reduce production times for individual components.
- To reduce finishing work required.
- To meet requirements for paint application.
- To reduce component weight by fifty percent (compared to conventional parts)
The project’s first sample was recently shown at the Composites Europe event held in Dusseldorf, Germany. The item was a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) front hood for a Ford Focus. The front hood was less than half the weight of conventional steel component and it meets all the requirements for strength, dent resistance, crash protection and pedestrian impact safety.
The most meaningful part about it is that the hood’s manufacturing process was fast enough to be implemented on the production line. But it was said that this will not mean that we are going to see such items being introduced into Ford’s vehicles any time soon.
A research engineer with Ford has mentioned that customers should not expect to see such products on sale in the near future but the manufacturing techniques for the prototype Focus hood could be transferred to higher volume applications at a later date.
Photo credit: Ford Motor Company