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The UK initiative wants to bring the benefits of lightweight carbon-fiber materials, which have been proven in Formula 1 and high-end supercars, to a new class of cost-sensitive automotive components.

January 13, 2017

2 Min Read
Eighteen-month R&D project aims to produce affordable carbon fiber for automotive applications

Surface Generation (Rutland, UK), a provider of advanced carbon-fiber processing technologies, has started work on an 18-month research and development project to produce affordable, lightweight carbon-fiber components for the automotive industry.

Backed by Innovate UK, the operating name of the Technology Strategies Board sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategies that provides grants for businesses, Surface Generation is working with project partners to create enhanced automotive components exploiting its patented Production to Functional Specifications (PtFS) process to over-mold long-fiber-reinforced carbon composites with short-fiber thermoplastics. The PtFS process is used to combine, compact, process and meld plastic, glass and composite materials more efficiently and with greater precision than is possible using traditional injection and compression molding processes.

Surface Generation will develop manufacturing solutions for the production of coupons, sub-element components and demonstrator articles.

The Production to Functional Specifications process is used to combine, compact, process and meld plastic, glass and composite materials more efficiently and with greater precision than is possible using traditional methods.

Part of the Thermoplastic Overmolding for Structural Composite Automotive Applications (TOSCAA) project, the consortium is led by SGL Carbon Fibers and includes Jaguar Land Rover, Engenuity, LMAT, Hifco, the University of Nottingham and AMRC at the University of Sheffield, and has attracted more than £2 million in UK government funding.

The advanced manufacturing techniques developed by Surface Generation rely on its unique PtFS process, which uses active thermal management technologies incorporated in mold faces to adjust heating and cooling levels for each mold area and process stage in real time.

PtFS is already being used by global automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics manufacturers to improve the quality and throughput of compression and injection molding applications and will be further developed over the course of the project.

Ben Halford, Chief Executive at Surface Generation, commented, “The benefits of lightweight carbon-fiber materials have been proven in Formula 1 and high-end supercars but are often uneconomic outside niche user cases. Surface Generation’s PtFS technology will extend the capability of thermoplastic over-molding, thereby delivering the functional benefits of carbon composites to a new class of cost-sensitive automotive components.”

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