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Carbon Fibre - A N...

January 27, 2015 12:33

With a shockingly long list of competitors, it is not easy for any company to maintain its position in the automobile market. The only way to ensure their rank stability is to come up with something new, something that was never even thought of. May be it all sounds easy in words, but from the aspect of engineers and researchers employed in this field, it is their action and work that speak and not their hypothesis or claim. Their hard work and determination is what that provides the continuity and flow to the automobile technology. Notably, the engineers have come up with another new technology in cars and this is none other than “Carbon – Fibre”. Though, it should be mentioned here that the cars composed of carbon fibre composites have been on roads for more than 20 years, but since millionaires’ cars are not frequent visitors for most, they did not get the attention they deserved.

While many auto brands are focused on restyling of new cars or shifting their sales towards some emerging market, BMW has decided to bet on a Carbon based future. The company is using the fine white carbon filaments produced in a 100 million dollar factory (Washington, USA) in its car models. This car technology after further processing results in Carbon fibre. This material was used in the passenger frame of the BMW’s new i3 electric car. This car hit the German showrooms on November ’13 and the U.S. market in the first half of 2014.

Other top auto makers like Ferrari and Lamborghini also use this technology in its new cars, but their 8-digit price create a big hurdle in the transition of these dream cars from fiction to reality for an average person. But, this condition has undergone a change. The new i3 model is roughly the price of its other series members, starting at around $33,000.

If your mental image of Carbon fibre is of a normal white or black coloured thin, then it’s time to build a new one. Carbon fibre is a high strength and light polymer material, but is highly expensive – about 20 times more expensive than steel. Carbon fibre’s properties help in reducing the size and cost of the power package and also provide a better handling by reducing the size of the car’s body. It was this fibre that made the project of the electric car possible. Jets and fighter planes also use this automobile technology to make its components strong and robust. Sports car designers also turn to these fibres for their products.

However, a few years ago, it was not possible to create cars with substantial amounts of carbon fibre and making them available at usual costs. But BMW’s initiative, of betting on this new automobile technology, has resulted in a new ray of hope in automobile customers. BMW must be congratulated for this great job. Though, it was expected that the company would employ this new technology in its upcoming cars when it started the production of carbon fibre roof panels for better performance of its M3 CSL model, but, applying it to this depth was a big surprise for everyone.

In the production process, tens of thousands of PAN filaments are slowly and gradually pulled through an oven at a time. The fibres change colours as they follow a serpent – shaped path defined by guide rollers in the 460-degree temperature. It is very important to ensure that the temperature is controlled. A high temperature and you have burning fibres.

After this, the fibres are heated to about 1300 degrees and then to 2500 degrees in an inert Nitrogen atmosphere that, because of absence of oxygen, prevents them from burning. These fibres containing 95 per cent Carbon are then stretched and then sprayed with a special epoxy solution. The final product is a flexible sheet that is then shipped for further processing. Using the resin transfer moulding process, the car’s frame is formed. Then comes the part where the carbon parts are joined using an adhesive. This is briefly how these carbon fibres travel their journey from fibres to a complete car.

Even though, the carbon fibres are very expensive, they take about half of the usual time for car production and also require much less working space. Add to this, they have a better strength and are lightweight, and thus, it sounds like a fair trade. According to automobile experts, this new car technology will prove very beneficial. Now, it is up to the auto makers how to use this technology or follow the same path as that of BMW. It is also yet to be seen whether this new technology in cars would receive the same warm welcome in other countries too, just like it received in US.

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