Automotive component manufacturers, however, are more likely to be interested in the technology that supports high-volume production of this structural carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) component. The Japan-based composites technology supplier Teijin developed the production equipment to mold each CFRTP part in approximately one minute. An entire CarbonPro box – about 23 CFRTP pieces altogether – can be built in about 10 minutes. The boxes are assembled at Teijin subsidiary Continental Structural Plastics’ (CSP) Indiana facility.
Although GMC manufactured fewer than 500 of its roughly 200,000 2019 Sierras with the CarbonPro box, demand has pushed that number to closer to 20,000 in 2020, Automotive News reports.
Teijin’s proprietary, carbon fiber nylon thermoplastic material, Sereebo®, which makes up the CarbonPro headboard, wall and floor panels, offers more than just strength. It also reduces weight on the Sierra pickups by 25% compared to a traditional steel bed. Those weight savings add up further upon factoring in that the scratch- and dent-resistant bed eliminates the need for a 40-pound bed liner.
CFRTP’s formability allowed engineers to push out the sidewalls further, providing a full cubic foot more cargo room compared to a roll-formed steel bed. That moldability also presented GM with a unique level of design flexibility. GM engineers opted to mold into the box unique features, including tie-downs and indentations for bike storage, as well as a 3-dimensional “grain” to increase traction. In fact, as other automotive manufacturers are discovering, composites’ moldability presents a number of unique aesthetic and functional possibilities that simply aren’t possible with other materials.
Composite Engine Shroud Quiets Cabins
The moldability of composites helped Ford develop a unique solution to its noise challenge. Like other OEMs, Ford has a close eye on lightweighting opportunities, but it’s also focusing on the overall driving experience, including noise. Research on how to improve comfortability led the manufacturer to consider strategies for reducing powertrain noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) inside the vehicle cab. In fact, that’s the entire goal of the NVH Lab Ford launched in Dearborn, Mich.
The lab allows engineers to test vehicle sound in different settings, including a reverberation suite and a semi-anechoic chamber – a room where sound reflections only come from the floor, not the absorbent walls and ceilings – with powered rollers that simulate road noise. The semi-anechoic chamber provides an area free of echo and reverberation and creates a pure working environment for sound, while the reverberation suite is used to determine how noise permeates full components or materials, such as sheet metal. The lab also runs tests in temperatures ranging from -40 to 140 F to develop a stronger understanding of how material shrinkage and expansion may cause squeaks and rattles.