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Carbon-Fiber Composites on a Roll in Auto Wheels

Image: Vision Composite Products carbon-fiber wheel
Vision Composite Products selects IDI's Ultrium carbon-fiber composites for high-performance Carbon Fiber Forged wheels.

In the world of high-performance automotive wheels, lightweight and strong designs with an eye toward aesthetics are the future. To this end, Vision Composite Products, a developer and manufacturer of off-road, racing, and after-market automotive wheels, is the latest OEM to debut rims based on carbon-fiber composites. The company has selected IDI Composites International’s Ultrium U660 for its innovative Carbon Fiber Forged wheels.

Seeking a better material solution than the typical cast and forged aluminum alloy used in performance wheels, Vision began researching composite wheels. Ultimately, it partnered with IDI Composites International and the 3i Technology Center to develop its Carbon Fiber Forged wheels using Ultrium carbon-fiber composite. The resulting solution enables high-volume production at costs competitive with forged aluminum wheels. The approach combines IDI’s discontinuous Ultrium U660 carbon-fiber composite and A&P Technology’s continuous Netshape preforms in a carbon-fiber forged molding process.

"Ultrium is the ideal material for Vision’s new Carbon Fiber Forged wheels," states Kevin Cahill, Director of Composite Technology for IDI Composites. "Ultrium is extremely lightweight and durable, with a beautiful appearance that has the ability to withstand extreme loads experienced on high-performance vehicles. This material ensures that the wheels not only will perform well, but the moldability of thermoset composites allows for cost-optimized and innovative design options."

The Carbon Fiber Forged wheels went through a grueling, continuous 48-hour, 1,415-mile road test in a 5.0 Coyote Mustang at speeds up to 100 mph. The test ended because of a broken rear half-shaft axle, while the Vision Carbon Fiber Forged wheels performed perfectly with no damage. The wheels weigh up to 40% less than cast aluminum and exceed all regulatory and industry requirements.

"Our 3i Composites Technology Center is truly an asset that helps make projects like these possible," says Tom Flood, Vice President and General Manager of IDI Composites International. “The 3i Technology Center's testing capabilities and dedicated team of composite chemists and engineers allows IDI to drive innovation and push the performance boundaries of composites beyond the value limitations of conventional materials."

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