Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP) also called DIALLED composite are materials that have been compressed by more 90 per cent of carbon fibres. Though expensive, they provide the highest mechanical properties, which are the strength and modulus of elasticity. CFRP is extremely strong and exhibits higher levels of rigidity than other matrix materials. They have low density intertwined level with excellent damping properties, high resistance to impacts, and thermal expansions that are exactly modifiable to supplement their complex features profile. The mix of these features make it a preference to other plastic materials like glass fibres and even such metals as iron and aluminium, in the manufacturing sector (Yao, Jacques & Norbert 2012, p. 15). For instance, in aerospace engineering, it is used for wings of the Airbus A350 and A310. In the automobile industry, it is used predominantly for the production of motor racing cars such as the Formula One bolides. Many companies use it in the manufacturing of motorcycle frames, manufacture of robot arms, sleeves and reinforcement in turbo molecular drive shafts and pumps. CFRP unique properties make it possible for the manufacturing companies to manipulate its content to suit the demands of different products with variations on the geometry and profile requirement. They include autoclave, fibre winding, pultrusion, matched-die moulding, reaction injection moulding, board pressing, integrated manufacturing systems, vacuum bagging, and manual lamination for personal and small-scale production. The discussion below gives detailed information on the properties of CFRP. It then links the properties to its tailored applications in the automobile industry and the reasons as to why it is gradually replacing the metallic components (Subic 2012, p. 71).
Advantages of the Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers
The carbon fibre reinforced polymer has high stiffness capabilities and is lightweight. For its weight, it is the strongest and stiffest material. It is outperforming other materials including timber, steel, and aluminium. It has approximately quarter-space gravity of iron and two thirds of aluminium making it stiffer and stronger than iron. It has high attenuation of vibration possible and high impact strength. It means that the material does not change shape even if someone ruptures it. Therefore, CFRP is suitable for low bending, high-speed operations, space saving, and activities that require suppression of vibrations (Durand 2008, p. 60). DIALLED composite has the highest thermal conductivity. It is the only existing plastic material that has thermal conductivity equivalent to copper. It realizes higher thermal conductivity than usual plastic materials. This feature makes CFRP suitable for lightweight heat sink, incombustibility, and performance at extremely high temperature. In addition, CFRP has a low coefficient of thermal expansion. This feature explains its excellent performance in thermal dimensional stability. It allows making the coefficient of thermal expansion to zero by the composite design. Therefore, it is perfect for situations that have high levels of temperature fluctuations such as in automobiles (Deng 2008, p. 18). DIALLED composite has also an approximation of over 95 per cent reduction in components by combining forms and parts into simpler moulded-parts. Overall, it shows a reduction in the cost of production. These materials are also light allowing economy on parts and low operational costs. Moreover, the reduction in weight of the components of CFRP leads to low fuel consumption (Yao, Jacques & Norbert 2012, p. 15). CFRP is resistant to chemicals because it has low reactive capabilities. This feature makes it ideal as a protective covering for surfaces with spillages of chemicals that are fit for the automobile industry. In addition, CFRP is corrosion resistance. Therefore, automobile industries prefer it to other metals because the vehicle would last longer with the least maintenance. Companies may enhance the duration, for which their cars are likely to last by customizing its colours. It is possible for the manufacturers to add little chemicals to DIALLED composites and protect their cars against ultraviolet rays. In addition, CFRP materials are poor conductors of electricity (unless the manufacturers modifies it to conduct electricity), and anti-magnetic making it possible for the automobile industry to use it as an insulator. It could also be fire resistant if the producers incorporate some additives (Deng 2008, p. 26).
Processing Characteristics of the CFRP and High Production Rates of the Automobile Companies
The consumption of carbon fibre reinforced polymers stood at only 5 per cent of all the world production in 2012 and projected to clock 30 per cent by 2020 (Ekiz 2007, p. 12). The dismal usage of CFRP is associated with the incapacitation of companies to process the product in large quantities. The whole process of tailoring carbon into forms that automobile manufacturing companies can consume is a lengthy one. The pace, at which companies produce these CFRP, is sluggish and not capable of supplying the production chain of automobiles with the required input amount. In addition, the process also requires the company to invest a lot in technology for it to make various car components from these CFRP raw materials (Carnay 2011, p.1). Because of this fact, the demand for the product that has created an artificial shortage has been high. In response to the market demands, the prices of DIALLED composite materials have gone up. It means that the manufacturers have to find better ways of covering up for these losses making some of them shift back to the use of aluminium in their production of cars (Ekiz 2007, p. 12).
Decline in the Use of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers in the Automobile Industry
There is always artificial shortage in the production of CFRP leading to high prices of CFRP making companies resort to aluminium as demonstrated above. The reason for preference of Aluminium in productions of automobile is that it does not need the long processes, through which the companies using CFRP must systematically go. Consequently, the use of aluminium in car production saves time. Other than the long process that wastes time, the company would be compelled to hire more labourers since the use of CFRP requires much work force (Carnay 2011, p.1). Carnay (2011, p.1) notes that, in the short-run, CFRP saves money by using CFRP. However, the savings are ploughed back to the production cost in the form of buying expensive raw materials, compensation for time lost, and hiring more labour force. For this reason, many companies are shifting back to the use of aluminium in their production of automobiles. He warns that, not unless the intense labour use, and high rate of technology in the productions of CFRP is reverted, the use of DIALLED composites in the production of cars may be abandoned (Carnay 2011, p.1). Aluminium has immensely contributed to the decline of the CFRP use in the automobile industry. Firstly, aluminium is readily available and has a very straightforward production process making it possible to produce it in large scale. Therefore, the companies that produce big volumes of cars can use aluminium conveniently unlike CFRP. Secondly, it is easier to process and tailor the aluminium materials to different car components and then join the parts together. Thirdly, there are five different types of the aluminium alloys with various properties suited for a particular function within the car. Fourthly, the improvement of technology on the use of aluminium has also made it better for manufacturers of cars. For example, heat-treating using aluminium enhances deformability properties of the car to absorb crash and reduce damage. Moreover, firms can tailor it into different shapes more easily and at lower temperatures than CRFP. Manufacturers will soon be joining parts using the cheap technology of bonding since there are plans to use epoxy joining and reducing the weight of aluminium (Carney 2011, p. 1).
- Carnay, D 2011, Ferrari prefers aluminium over carbon fiber, viewed 23 April 2014, <http://www.sae.org/mags/SVE/10391>.
- Deng, J 2008, Durability of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) repair/strengthening concrete beams, University of Wyoming, Laramie.
- Durand, LP 2008, Composite materials research progress, Nova Science Publishers, New York.
- Ekiz, E 2007, Improving steel behavior using carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) wrapping, University of Michigan Press, Michigan.
- Subic, AJ 2012, Sustainable automotive technologies 2012: proceedings of the 4th International Conference, Springer, Berlin.
- Yao, W, Jacques, R & Norbert AH 2012, Fatigue behaviour of fiber reinforced polymers: experiments and simulations: Fifth International Conference on Fatigue of Composites, DEStech Publishers, Lancaster.