However, one of the chief benefits of using a steel-GFRP hybrid is the engineering predictability. “Anybody in the industry who has tried to get composite products adopted knows the biggest challenge is getting the engineers to design with it,” Hershberger says. The reason, he explains, is that “composites can do what steel does in many cases, and a lot better – but the problem is that composites often do it in a different way. So, for example, FRP rebar has greater tensile strength than steel, but it’s not as stiff.”
The result is that the end product would need a slightly different design when using GFRP rebar in place of steel. “But for our dowel bars, it’s a swap out. It performs the exact same function as the steel. If you want to use CRT’s Long Life dowel instead of steel, you don’t have to change anything,” Hershberger says.
Improving Fuel Efficiency and Crash Resistance
It’s a similar desire to add composites into the mix without shaking up in-place manufacturing processes that is challenging the automotive industry today.
Composites experts working in the automotive industry have seen a car with a fully composite frame – the BMW i3 – but they don’t expect to see one again anytime soon. As Ana Wagner, global strategic marketing manager for Dow Automotive Systems, points out, “Full composite vehicles like the BMW i3 probably won’t be the norm. In fact, BMW had to build assembly plants specifically to build this vehicle because the manufacturing processes are very different from the traditional processes. But the use of carbon composite parts is definitely going on.”
In this industry, it’s clear that right now the biggest benefits come from the combination of composite and aluminum components.
Wagner explains that composite products are used in a multitude of automotive applications already. In some cases these materials can improve durability and even crash resistance, but their light weight is particularly critical.