Audi has put carbon fiber to good use in concept vehicles like the e-tron show cars and a special lightweight A5, which has a carbon fiber hood and rear deck, and in some parts of the R8 and the RS 3. The high-tech (and currently expensive) material could make the jump from fancy accoutrement to integral part of future lightweight production cars thanks to the announcement today that Audi and Voith GmbH have formed a development partnership to bring "fiber-reinforced materials" to market by "developing a highly automated process chain for high-volume automotive production."
Voith has many years of experience with carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP), a material that BMW will use in the Megacity EV and other vehicles. Mercedes, too, is interested in carbon fiber, and this is one party that can't have too many guests.
Further optimization of the industrialization of fiber-reinforced materials in the interest of the environment and the economy
Development of fiber-reinforced materials as a component part of an intelligent material mix for future car projects
Near-series production development of new, innovative high-tech materials for the automotive industry
Ingolstadt/Heidenheim, February 16, 2011 –AUDI AG and Voith GmbH signed a letter of intent regarding a development partnership today. The goal of the partnership is to promote industrialization of fiber-reinforced materials, particularly through developing a highly automated process chain for high-volume automotive production. The development partnership is intended to further strengthen Germany's position as a place for innovation.
The planned long-term and exclusive partnership between Audi and Voith is to focus on the further development and highly automated production of fiber-reinforced materials for use in future automotive projects. This is intended to use the high potential of this innovative material to benefit lightweight construction and efficiency. With a focus on implementation in volume production, Audi and Voith are looking to apply themselves to developing new, innovative high-tech materials, in addition to industrialization and process engineering for conventional fiber-reinforced polymers. One approach involves environmentally-compatible fiber composite materials that offer ideal properties for use in the automotive industry as a complement to existing materials, with respect to both total energy balance and process engineering.
"Fiber-reinforced polymers offer weight and strength advantages, which we have already put to use in the Audi R8 and the Audi RS 3, for instance. We want to use these advantages for high-volume production as well, and therefore the focus of our partnership with Voith is on specific car projects," said Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG.
"We are concentrating on the manufacturing and recyclability of fiber-reinforced materials in the interest of a sustainable material cycle. After all, part of our corporate responsibility is to face the challenge of harmonizing economic and environmental interests as we move toward using fiber-reinforced polymers in high-volume production. With Audi and Voith, the right partners have come together to handle these challenges."
For several years now, Voith GmbH has been intensively involved with the use of CFRP (carbon fiber-reinforced polymer) in industrial plant design, such as in lightweight construction components in paper machines or in drive engineering. With the help of the development partnership being announced today, the Company will now be able to apply its technological know-how to the automotive sector as well. Voith sees major potential for growth in the use of fiber-reinforced polymers in high-volume production, especially in this market. "For Voith, technologies for the use of fiber-composite materials in industrial production are a key strategic competence. Given the ever-greater requirements for efficiency, coupled with the need to protect the environment and conserve resources, we are certain that this competence will be demanded by more and more markets in the future," said Dr. Hubert Lienhard, CEO of Voith GmbH. In Audi, Voith has found an attractive partner that already possesses solid experience in lightweight construction and that has successfully introduced new materials into high-volume production.
Lightweight construction is one of the core competences of AUDI AG. The Ingolstadt-based premium carmaker relies on intelligent composite design. Materials like aluminum, steel and magnesium, as well as fiber-reinforced materials like CFRP, are used where they bring the most benefits in terms of lightweight construction. Audi has many years of experience in the use of fiber-reinforced polymers. The Company promotes their development for wider use in automotive production at its Neckarsulm site in Germany in a technical research unit for fiber-reinforced polymers that is connected to the Lightweight Design Center. Fiber-composite polymers will continue to gain importance in the material mix within the structure of the automobile. One focus of the partnership with Voith will therefore be to utilize the great potential of fiber-reinforced materials for innovative automotive architecture.