FAURECIA AUTOMOTIVE EXTERIORS
The Composite Future
The future of vehicle lightweighting is largely dependent on the future of composites, and Faurecia is ready to lead the expansion of the role of composites in the creation of structural, semi-structural and decoration parts for passenger vehicles.
Composites to date have been used only sparingly on mass-production vehicles, mostly in sport and luxury cars. Faurecia, however, now is developing techniques for producing composites in high volumes, wrapping breakthrough processes and materials into a new generation of composite materials.
In most cases, the resin portion of composites has been a thermoset plastic. Although durable, thermoset is not easily recycled, because it can only be broken into pieces. Faurecia is examining the substitution of thermoplastic resin for thermoset. Thermoplastic can be melted and reused, as well as welded, while thermoset must be glued or screwed into structures, adding weight to joints.
The other ingredient in high-end composites—carbon fibers—are costly when used for structural parts, so principally they are selected for high-end, high-performance cars. Faurecia has been extensively researching ways to use carbon fibers, and glass fibers as well, much more efficiently for high-volume production.
Faurecia’s current work on creating carbon/thermoplastic composites is targeted to surmounting a number of challenges. For instance, the melting point of thermoplastic in a composite is only 150° C to 160° C (300° F to 320° F). With such a low melting point, a current composite with thermoplastic would not tolerate the electro-coating processes with temperatures in excess of 200° C (390° F) that is employed for all mass-produced vehicles.
Moreover, while a thermoset component, such as a fascia, can be manufactured at a rate of one per minute, the same part fabricated from thermoplastic requires 20 minutes or more. Faurecia, therefore, is developing methods for shortening cycle times and efficient processes for thermoset resins.
All-around composite solutions for today’s and tomorrow’s vehicles
Faurecia has developed an exceptionally broad range of components for today’s cars and trucks, all of them to be displayed together on a single demonstrator at the 2014 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. This exhibit showcases the full range of Faurecia composite technology prowess for producing any kind of part, whether visible, semi-structural or structural.
Another aspect of this exhibit is the changing use of exposed carbon fiber, or visible carbon. Components using visible carbon are not color painted; therefore, the carbon must be faultless in its manufacture, because all of its elements can be seen in the final product. Faurecia is developing ways to improve processes for differentiating vehicles and displaying a higher-end version of a vehicle through visible carbon components.
Faurecia anticipates its processes for producing these structures in high volumes for mainstream vehicles will be available for use in the 2018-2020 generation of vehicles.
The Composite Future demonstrator
Composites for current and upcoming applications will be presented in the Composite Future demonstrator at NAIAS. For structural parts like many of those to be displayed, Faurecia estimates increased use of composite materials could slash 40 percent from their weight.