General Motors has announced a partnership with a leading carbon fiber producer in an effort to research the possibility of widespread use of the material in its vehicles. Teijin Limited has pioneered a new manufacturing process for carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic that allows for cycle times of under one minute. Typically, creating carbon fiber parts from molds requires the use of slow-setting resin that simply takes too long to be practical for use on a large scale. As part of the tie-up with GM, Teijin will set up a new technical center in the northern United States to support development.

Carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics have the benefit of being up to 10 times stronger than conventional steel while offering one quarter of the weight. Of course, carbon fiber can also come with a suitably steep price tag, though Teijin's techniques will likely help curb costs significantly. As manufacturers continue to push for ever more efficient vehicles, ditching the weight will become increasingly important. Hit the jump for the full press release.
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Advanced Carbon Fiber Nears Broad Automotive Use

GM and Teijin will co-develop technology to reduce vehicle weight, improve fuel economy
Teijin to open U.S. technical center to facilitate collaborative development

DETROIT – General Motors and Teijin Limited., a leader in the carbon fiber and composites industry, will co-develop advanced carbon fiber composite technologies for potential high-volume use globally in GM cars, trucks and crossovers.

The co-development pact signed today involves use of Teijin's innovative carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) technology, a faster and more efficient way to produce carbon fiber composites that potentially could be introduced on mainstream vehicles. For Teijin, the arrangement could lead to widening its portfolio beyond specialty and high-end automotive carbon fiber applications.

"Our relationship with Teijin provides the opportunity to revolutionize the way carbon fiber is used in the automotive industry," said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. "This technology holds the potential to be an industry game changer and demonstrates GM's long-standing commitment to innovation."

To support the relationship, Teijin will establish the Teijin Composites Application Center, a technical center in the northern part of the United States early next year.

As carbon fiber is 10 times stronger than regular-grade steel yet only one-quarter of the weight, carbon fiber composites used as automobile components are expected to dramatically reduce vehicle weight. Consumers benefit from lighter weight vehicles with better fuel economy and all the safety benefits that come with vehicles of greater mass.

Teijin's proprietary breakthrough is its ability to mass-produce carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic components with cycle times of under a minute. Conventional carbon fiber-reinforced composites use thermosetting resins and require a much longer timeframe for molding. This time factor has limited the use of carbon fiber in high-volume vehicles.

Teijin recently received a 2011 Global Automotive Carbon Composites Technology Innovation Award by Frost & Sullivan. The technology also was selected by ICIS Innovation Awards 2011 as the overall winner and the recipient of the Best Product Innovation award.

Increasingly, strict global environmental standards and fuel economy regulations have intensified the need to reduce vehicle mass by using lightweight materials in place of high-tension steel or aluminum.

The Teijin Group, which has identified automobiles as a key growth market, accelerated the new technology development through collaboration by the Teijin Composites Innovation Center and Toho Tenax Co. Ltd., where the mass-production technology for carbon fiber reinforced plastic components using thermoplastic resin was successfully developed.

"Teijin's innovative CFRTP technology, which promises to realize revolutionarily lighter automotive body structures, will play an important role in GM's initiative to bring carbon fiber components into mainstream vehicles," said Norio Kamei, senior managing director of Teijin. "We believe our visionary relationship with GM will lead the way in increased usage of green composites in the automotive industry."

The launch of any carbon fiber-intensive vehicle applications resulting from the relationship would be announced closer to market readiness. The agreement does not involve an exchange of equity between the companies.


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  • 29 Comments
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 3 Years Ago
      Can we also have somebody get back into kevlar belted tires instead of steel belted? Weight savings on rotational mass as well as unsprung are very helpful. Kevlar belted tires combined with carbon based plastic wheels would be a great thing.
      throwback
      • 3 Years Ago
      Carbon fiber roofs would be great. Reduce weight and the center of gravity. The roof is also less likely to be damaged in an minor accident so no costly repairs.
      Lemon
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Carbon fiber reinforced thermoplastics" I don't believe this is the typical woven sheet of carbon fiber that is hardened by resin that we are all used to. I think this is a resin with tons of tiny, short, non-woven strands of carbon fiber mixed in that allow the mixture to be injected into a mold similar to plastic injection molding. I believe that is the reason for the significantly lower manufacturing times and therefor much lower cost. HiPer wheels (for ATVs) are constructed this way. They're very strong but not quite as stiff as woven carbon fiber. I could definitely see this being used in the auto industry as a low(er) cost weight saving solution. Looking forward to hearing more about it!
        Julius
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Lemon
        I wonder if that's a similar process to what Lamborghini worked out with Callaway (Golf) Clubs... a "molded" carbon-fiber process.
      walletclan
      • 3 Years Ago
      Like Government Motors can afford carbon fiber...
        Matt
        • 3 Years Ago
        @walletclan
        You're an idiot.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @walletclan
        [blocked]
      Brand X
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's nice to see GM use more high quality Japanese technology! It's among the best on the planet. GM "assembly line workers" should be able to just snap it all together. Hope the instructions are in large print, since these plants the UAW runs employs inferior lighting which ruins eyes and costs a fortune. Maybe GM can buy some good Korean LED lighting to provide superior lighting, stimulate their employs circadian system and reduce lighting energy costs by 90%. Sorry, I forgot - UAW doesn't care about what operating costs are. Scrap that idea.
        Jeffrey 'Dutch' Selo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Brand X
        You sir, are a dumbass troll.
          breakfastburrito
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Jeffrey 'Dutch' Selo
          Satire is not the language of dumbasstrolls. Dumbasstrolls say things like "fake", "gay", or "you are a dumbass troll!" I found his post to be educational in a humorous way.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Carlos Vargas
        • 3 Years Ago
        Titanium will never be used in mass production. It is far too expensive to ever be considered for anything but limited high performance applications.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Carlos Vargas
          [blocked]
        breakfastburrito
        • 3 Years Ago
        The regulations are not "retarded". As vehicles become less massive, the crash damage goes down, allowing even lighter cars to arrive. It's the differential in mass that causes death and damage. If everyone drove lotus Elises, the world would not only be much nicer - it would be much safer. The fact that we're still selling 6000lb monsters, to be used for single-occupant commuters - that's retarded.
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nice. when a mass-market carmaker like GM starts investigating carbon, then you know the tide it turning toward (eventual) lighter cars.
        DB
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        Don't forget about Toyota's efforts in Carbon fiber. For the LFA Toyota had their loom division design and build new acticulated looms that can weave parts from straight the carbon fiber filiment, instead of the traditionaly approach of cutting sheets of carbon fiber to fit your mold. Weaving the parts directly reduces the waste and also allows you build strong parts without seams or overlap. Given the massive expense in designing these very complex looms, it would seem that, like GM, Toyota has plans for Carbon Fiber beyond the 500 LFA's their built.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DB
          [blocked]
      evannever
      • 3 Years Ago
      Aren't there health risks involved when composites shred, burn, and tear in an accident. In a previous life, I took an aviation accident investigation course and we had to wear Tyvek and respirators due to the composite content. Is this not a worry in dealing with carbon fiber on autos? I know it's been used in plenty of cars thus far, but I was wondering if any material sciences guys had an answer.
      4gasem
      • 3 Years Ago
      Carbon Fiber itself isn't that pricey. It's the time/labor costs associated with it, that cost so much.
      QAZZY
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'd love a Z06 with some nice carbon fiber buckets instead of the uncomfortable seats currently in there. A lighter Z06 with carbon buckets is in fact my dream car. I'd love to see carbon fiber be used by GM.
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