Monday, July 21, 2008

Carbon Composites Update

In my continuing research of composite materials and how they are useful to the LM manufacturing model, I read an article in Automotive Engineering International today that discussed Caparo's (the company that developed the T1, a super light weight F1 inspired road car) development program of carbon composites.

The Engineering Director of Vehicle Products at Caparo is Ben Scott-Geddes, McLaren's former Head of Composites and Body Structures and most recently Head of Advanced Concepts. The article is the summary of an interview conducted with him regarding Caparo's recent movement to take the knowledge of carbon composites and adapt it to manufacturing at "prices appropriate to volume vehicles."

Scott-Geddes makes an excellent point when he states that a lot of the cost of carbon composites is due to the fact that the manufacturing methods currently in use are not well suited for volume production since they were originally developed in the aerospace industry for low volume applications. He and his team have set out on this path of innovation by analyzing the areas of automotive manufacturing to determine the areas where carbon composites can be most useful and developed new compositions and production techniques more applicable to vehicles produced at volume. They are also developing a "variable matrix" composite, blending several materials in a single part based on what will yield the strongest, lightest part fit for the application.

This is great news for a company like ours as it gives us yet another data point to examine in our development of a new way to produce vehicles in addition to those we have already researched, namely FiberForge. It's these types of alternative materials and forming techniques that will allow us to offer a differentiated product, so we will continue to research them even well into production as the technology evolves.


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