Archive for December, 2011

Automotive Composites

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

SPE ACCE 2011:  Growing Again
The Society of Plastics Engineers’ 11th conference on automotive composites fields a top slate of speakers and attracts its largest crowd.
Article From:  Composites Technology December 2011,  Jeff Sloan, Editor-in-Chief

An event-record 480 automotive and composites professionals attended the Society of Plastics Engineers’ 2011 edition of its Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) — 40 more than its previous best in prerecession 2008.   Held this year on Sept. 13-15 in Troy, Mich., the annual gathering returned, after two seasons in an economy-conscious two-day timeframe, to its original three-day format.   Further, ACCE organizers filled the more expansive schedule with one of its best-ever collections of papers and presentations.   The event provided attendees a concentrated data- and detail-packed opportunity to catch up on the latest material, design, tooling and processing technologies now in use, and for future use, in automotive applications.  CT’s editor-in-chief, Jeff Sloan, was there and returned with the following capsule commentaries on key presentations.

An outlook was provided on the changing economics of the composites industry over the next several years.   In 2010, composites materials generated $17.7 billion in revenue, and it was predicted that annual revenue would rise to $27.4 billion in 2016.  Composite finished goods generated $50.2 billion in revenue in 2010, with $78.0 billion annually expected by 2016.  Global automotive composite materials accounted for $2.4 billion in 2010, with $3.7 billion expected by 2016.   A most notable statistic, penetration of composites into automotive applications, is a mere 3.6 percent while penetration into marine, by comparison, is 68 percent.  That indicates room for growth.  Other trends to watch:

• U.S. composites industry growth will beat U.S. GDP over the  next five years.
• By 2026, most of the world’s biggest cities will be in developing countries; the resulting population density will drive a variety of
  composite markets, including automotive.
• The U.S. has the largest composites consumption per capita.
• The U.S. wind industry will grow 16 percent annually through 2016.
• The Chinese wind industry will grow 20 percent annually through 2016.
• The U.S. Congress is expected to renew the wind industry’s production tax credit (PTC) before it expires in 2012.
• Natural gas prices are expected to increase 7 percent annually through 2016.

A global perspective on trends driving composites use not just in automobiles, but also in a variety of other applications.  Macro trends in population growth/distribution, climate change, energy development, globalization, technology research and legislative action, composites have a major role to play in meeting emerging challenges.   In particular, clean energy, water infrastructure, urban infrastructure and industrial light weighting as significant opportunities.   Sustainable composite solutions, must balance government regulations, end-of-life product management, CO2 abatement requirements, recyclability, total product lifecycle cost and social consciousness.   Certainly, legislation and regulation throughout the world looks to be a major factor in composites’ future. It was cited that the European Union (EU) legislation that targets certain maximum allowable CO2 levels by 2015, with incremental ratchets downward through 2020.   “The challenge of composites begins and ends with legislation,” it was concluded.

The Strength of Natural Fiber Composite Materials

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Composite materials and layered structures based on natural plant fibers are increasingly regarded as an alternative to glass fiber reinforced parts.  Fiber reinforced composites with thermoplastic matrices have successfully proven their high qualities in various fields of technical application.  Aside from conventional fiber materials like aramid, Kevlar or glass fibers, natural fibers such as tossa or flax are increasingly applied for reinforcement. 

One of the major fields of application for natural fiber reinforced composites can be found in the automotive industry.  And, the use of natural fibers in the European automotive industry has grown significantly since the year 2000, with an average of 5 to 10kg of natural fibers incorporated into every European passenger car with interior parts such as door trim panels, or trunk liner.

An important aspect regarding the replacement of glass fiber by natural fibers as the reinforcing component in thermoplastic composites is the distinctive improvement in crash behavior.  It can be assume that automotive interiors with a reinforcement of natural fibers are safer than glass fiber parts, as no-sharp edges fracture surfaces occur in the case of a crash. 

Other advantages of reinforcement by natural fibers results from their high absorptivity, which creates excellent acoustics and air cleaning effect.  In terms of industrial safety, natural fibers do not cause allergic reactions or skin irritations.  All of this information courtesy of Dieter Mueller, from the Bremer Institute (BIBA) in Bremen, Germany, in his paper, “Improving the Impact Strength of Natural Fiber Reinforced Composites by Specifically Designed Material and Process Parameters.”

For further information regarding nature fiber in a vehicle, visit to learn more about molding the future with natural fiber composites.

Natural Fiber for Automotive Applications

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Some History on Natural Fiber:

The use of composite materials dates from centuries ago, and it all started with natural fibers. In ancient Egypt some 3 000 years ago, clay was reinforced by straw to build walls. Later on, the natural fiber lost much of its interest. Other more durable construction materials like metals were introduced. During the sixties, the rise of composite materials began when glass fibers in combination with tough rigid resins could be produced on large scale.  In the last several decades there has been a renewed interest in the natural fiber as a substitute for glass, motivated by potential advantages of weight saving, lower raw material price, and ‘thermal recycling’ or the ecological advantages of using resources which are renewable.

Advantages of Natural Fiber:

+ Low specific weight, which results in a higher specific strength and stiffness than glass.
This is a benefit especially in parts designed for bending stiffness.

+ It is a renewable resource, the production requires little energy, and CO2 is used while oxygen is given back to the environment.

+ Producible with low investment at low cost, which makes the material an interesting product for countries with the proper climate for growing and processing natural fiber.

+ Friendly processing, no wear of tooling, no skin irritation

+ Thermal recycling is possible, where glass causes problems in combustion furnaces.

+ Good thermal and acoustic insulating properties

What are some of the applications of natural fiber in automotive applications?

Door systems:  bolsters, arm rests, center inserts, upper door panels and full door substrates made from natural fiber composite blends.

Load Floors located in the rear of the vehicle, these functional weight carrying components require strength and functionality.  We utilize natural fiber and polypropylene to create load floor component substrates. 

Package trays and back panels, these components made from a natural fiber substrate help to reduce interior road noise that flows through the back of the cab wall.  Natural fiber components have the ability to incorporate attachments and clip attachments.

 For more information on natural fiber composite substrates, please contact

Reduce Automotive Emissions

Monday, December 5th, 2011

In the U.S. where a “green” environment is becoming more and more popular, it was surprising to see that our carbon dioxide emissions are actually going up!  Meanwhile automotive OEM’s continue to work on ways to reduce the weight of vehicles, reducing fuel consumptions, and subsequently reducing the amount of  carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions released into the environment.

FlexForm Technologies offers a solution, a natural fiber substrate for automotive applications (door panels, seat backs, trunk trim, headliners, etc.).  This natural fiber substrate (a blend of natural fiber and polymer fiber) offers a weight reduction compared to commonly used wood.  A switch to natural fibers substrate offers the OEM’s an easy opportunity for a vehicle weight reduction and less automotive emissions. 

Please see our website, for further information.


For more information on the rise of fossil fuel emissions, please reference the following article:

December 5, 2011, 5:42 am (

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels and the cement industry scaled a record high in 2010, rocketing by 5.9 per cent over 2009 in a surge led by developing countries, scientists have reported.  For the first time ever, annual CO2 from these sources topped nine billion tonnes, reaching an estimated 9.1 gigatonnes, they said in a letter to the journal Nature Climate Change.
The year-on-year rise was the highest ever recorded and more than wiped out a 1.4 per cent fall in 2009 which occurred as a result of the 2008 global financial crisis.
“After only one year, the global financial crisis has had little impact on the strong growth trend of global CO2 emissions that characterized most of the 2000s,” said the letter, led by Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway. The rebound may be explained by a swift easing in energy prices and injections of government funds to help recovery, the authors suggested.
CO2 emissions from rich countries fell by 1.3 per cent in 2008 and 7.6 per cent in 2009, but increased by 3.4 per cent in 2010. The United States, historically the world’s biggest emitter and currently ranked second after China, saw an increase in 2010 of 4.1 per cent. Even so, emissions from developed countries in 2010 remained lower than their average emissions when measured over 2000-2007.  In contrast, emissions from developing countries increased by 4.4 per cent in 2008, 3.9 per cent in 2009 and 7.6 per cent in 2010.  This growth was concentrated especially in China, which saw a year-on-year increase of 10.4 per cent, and in India, where there was a rise of 9.4 per cent.

The letter, authored by six prominent scientists, was published at the midway point at the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
Nations are struggling for agreement on how to tame CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases which trap solar heat and thus create a man-made trigger for climate change.  One of the biggest bones of contention is whether emerging giant economies should be part of a global, legally-binding treaty.  The United States says a pact can only be envisaged if China and India, in particular, have constraints.
Right now, the developing countries have no specific curbs under the Kyoto Protocol or under the wider agreement in the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The letter published on Sunday concurs with data published last month by the US Department of Energy that focused on fossil-fuel consumption. According to an analysis on Thursday released by a British risk-analysis firm Maplecroft, five countries –China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan – account for more than half of all emissions of man-made greenhouse gases.  Brazil, Germany, Canada, Mexico and Iran lie just behind.