“We’ve seen enormous cost reduction in carbon fiber pressure vessels in the upper two-digit percentage range within the last decade because of the transformation to high-volume production,” says Michael Emonts, managing partner of AZL Aachen GmbH. “Future cost cuts will require a more efficient use of materials. This can only be achieved by close cooperation of experts along the entire process chain who discuss fields of action, derive roadmaps and implement R&D projects.”

As an equipment supplier that has installed more than 550 machines around the world, Roth offers expertise in filament winding technology processes. “We can contribute a very special and detailed knowledge as to what filament winding processes require, how they work and which productivity advantages they can offer,” says Andreas Reimann, managing director of Roth Composite Machinery.

Complementary Expertise

Just as AZL fosters industry growth through collaboration, so too does ACMA as the industry’s largest trade association. “The Composites Technology Day at Ford that ACMA initiated really created a mechanism for [Forward Engineering and Johns Manville] to highlight the work we are doing together,” says Halsband.

As part of the event, Ford held a design challenge, assembling a list of several complex parts manufactured by the OEM and asking companies to re-imagine the parts as composites-intensive designs. Participating companies had approximately five weeks to complete the project from the time the challenge was issued to their presentation at the Composites Technology Day. “To do a good job really required the support of multiple companies,” says Halsband. “No single company could do it justice.”

Dana Miloagă agrees. “Unless a company happened to have worked on a related concept, it was very difficult for anyone to respond by themselves,” says Miloagă, product leader for composites at Johns Manville. “We reached out to other companies in our network for specific topics, particularly regarding manufacturability because one of Ford’s requirements for the part was that it can be manufactured in large numbers per year. We wanted to show that the concept we proposed, from a material and manufacturing perspective, met that requirement.”

Miloagă’s team presented a structural battery enclosure made from Johns Manville’s new AP Nylon 6 Organosheets, which utilize a proprietary continuous manufacturing process featuring in situ polymerization of caprolactum to form the polyamide 6 thermoplastic. While Johns Manville is the materials expert, Forward Engineering contributed its know-how in simulation-driven design and production-based engineering. In addition, the firm has worked on battery electric vehicles and battery enclosures for several years.