Terrence J. O’Donovan, the vice president of Marketing & Sales at Core Molding Technologies, Inc., joined the company in 2009. O’Donovan’s primary responsibility is to grow Core’s business in both existing and new markets and to further develop and expand its marketing and sales organization. He is the chair of ACMA’s Automotive Composites Alliance (ACA).
Read more about how composites are making their way to everyday automobiles in the March/April issue of Composites Manufacturing.
What do you see driving the industry right now?
CAFE standards are driving manufacturers to reduce weight, which is a great way to improve the scope of composites, as they can reduce the weight that the engine and the powertrain have to move. Lighter weight allows smaller powertrains to be developed and composites have great strength-to-weight ratios. Composites can take out weight without reducing performance.
What are automotive OEMs looking for from composites?
In general, what they want to see from composites is not too different than what they want to see from other materials. Composites compete with traditional materials such as steel, magnesium, aluminum and even new materials. Overall, OEMs are looking for innovation; new materials that have great properties.
What are some of the challenges in auto applications?
In terms of what is preventing OEMs from further looking at composites for future applications, this mostly has to do with CFRP [carbon fiber reinforced polymer] over GFRP [glass fiber reinforced plastic]. They are concerned about capacity and cycle time because automobiles are high volume products that require short cycle times. Compared to traditional materials, composites have had long cycle times. GFRP and SMC (sheet molding compound) are used widely in mainstream automobiles but they could always improve as well. However, CFRP has traditionally had a much longer cycle time (30-40 minutes for a part), which is not short enough to be practical in the heavy volumes of 200,000 units or more per a year. OEMs have global platforms with high unit turnout per year and they need materials that can produce at this rate. One consequence of this for OEM is to invest in more tooling so, for example, a part that takes 30 minutes to produce using one tool can be made in six minutes with five tools.
Another concern is with the available supply of carbon fiber, which is widely used in the aerospace sector – and that industry pays top dollar for carbon and consumes a lot of the supply. Automotive needs to make sure they can get enough of the supply before they will commit to large-scale adoption.