Q: What can composites suppliers and manufacturers do to help Volkswagen better utilize composites?
Suppliers and manufacturers have a difficult task, there is no denying that. Fortunately, we found some great partners whom we have joined forces with in our IACMI projects. Through these kind of projects and partnerships, we can quickly evaluate technologies from suppliers and manufacturers, which is typically a longer process under normal circumstances. These partnerships also help us to reach a production capable technology quicker, which is necessary for today’s faster moving industry.
Q: Where do you envision composites usage in the automobile industry headed in the future? The future is promising for composites – no matter what industry – and at Volkswagen, we are very excited. We are developing new manufacturing processes and broadening our materials catalog to include recycled and recyclable options. These solutions will enable composites to be implemented into an intelligent multi-material design. In the future, vehicles will still have to use steel and aluminum, but composites will be that perfect supplement that helps achieve a more sustainable future.
Honda Motor Co. Ltd.
Honda Motor Company is headquartered in Tokyo and has nearly 70 manufacturing facilities worldwide, including seven in the United States. The company’s sales for fiscal year 2017, which ended March 31, were $125.6 billion. The automotive product line accounts for 72 percent of total sales, with the remainder in motorcycles, power products (such as lawnmowers, snow blowers and outboard engines) and other miscellaneous products. Jim Ryan, manager of the Materials Research Department within the Materials Research Division at Honda R&D Americas Inc., discussed the composites industry.
Q: How has composite use on Honda automobiles grown in the past several years?
On our recent launches, you’ve seen some larger and more visible parts. The Acura NSX has a number of Class A body panels made from composites, including a factory option for a CFRP roof. The second-generation Honda Ridgeline launched last year, and the truck bed construction has moved from primarily a painted structural SMC system to a multi-piece, multi-composite material construction. As a third example, the 2016 Honda Civic incorporates a fiber reinforced thermoplastic front-end module.
Q: Which of your car models features the most composites?
In terms of overall new technology applications – for a number of technologies, not just composites – the Acura NSX sets the benchmark for us. Specific to composite applications, there are several Class A SMC body panels, including the fenders and quarter panels. It has a carbon fiber roof option that’s manufactured using an RTM process. Within the engine room many of the beauty covers utilize FRP composites as well.