Bcomp’s potential in automotive industry
2015 has been an important year for Bcomp. With the official launch of the new generation of powerRibs in March, Bcomp has formally entered the race to introduce flax fibres as a high performance bio-based alternative in automotive components. And this was only the start of our promising new endeavor.
Starting from October, Bcomp’s team was strengthened by Sophie de Rijk, mechanical engineering graduate from EPFL. With her experience in composites in both the space industry (RUAG space) and as a Marie Curie researcher for the automotive sector (Virtual Vehicle Research Center), Sophie is our especially dedicated contact for automotive projects.
The powerRibs utilize the low density of flax, its high modulus and low yarn transverse compressibility to create a stiffening mesh for thin shells, similar to nervures on leaves. With the new EU and US legislations on further reduced vehicle emissions, light weighting increasingly becomes a key factor in the automotive industry. The powerRibs are a cost-efficient response to new lightweight requirements with the bonus of high damping and using bio-sourced fibres.
The second half of the year was dedicated to developing thermoplastic processing techniques with powerRibs. Thanks to a close collaboration with Georg Kaufmann Formenbau AG – a trusted tooling provider of the European automotive industry – high quality products have been achieved using a new process which allows large volume production.
A lightweight version of the well established natural fiber (NF) mat interior door panels has been developed, and novel material combinations using powerRibs are under evaluation for various applications with several automotive OEMs.
A new door panel concept, presented at Composites Europe in September in Stuttgart, constituted of a NF mat base layer stiffened with powerRibs, yields a surface weight of 1000g/m2 for the same bending stiffness of the benchmark NF mat part of 1800 g/m2.
In parallel, we have worked on improving the approach to the powerRibs impregnation with PP, guaranteeing an even better mechanical performance of the final product by increasing the final bending stiffness by up to 40%.
The targets for 2016-17 are clear:
- integrate the powerRibs seamlessly into the production chain of interior parts such as door panels, headlines, seats or cockpits
- expand to exterior and more structural components in association with - for example CF and GF bases - such as door panels, headliners, seats, cockpits or roof applications.
Tier and OEM customers will not only profit from the powerRibs extraordinary light weighting capacity, but will experience higher damping thanks to flax’s high energy dissipation characteristics.