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Conventional materials used in industry cannot always satisfy the whole design specifications. Composite materials are recent favorable substitutes with number of advantages over common industrial materials, primarily because of their high-strength-to-weight ratio and low cost machinery and tooling. By using composites, which generally are lighter than metals, a manufacturer would have a greater flexibility since the strength and the stiffness of the structure can be manipulated by stacking laminate plies in localized areas and along favored orientations. Also, with the advances made in the manufacturing processes, complex shapes can now be made in autoclaves.
Automotive composites as a developing market has been estimated to reach 4.3 billion USD in 2017 with growth rate of 7% per year. Although composites with only 3.6% contribution to automotive sector, are struggling against aluminum and steel, but the potential of the Fiber-Reinforced Plastic (FRP) composites in weight-reduction of the vehicles can surpass both aluminum and steel. The urge for weight reduction is impelled by EU legislation on CO2 emission, which has to be decreased to <95g CO2/km by 2021 (<130g CO2/km in 2015). The advantages of using composites as a medium for weight reduction can result in 7 million tons of CO2 reduction in EU per year (total of 500 million ton in 2007 produced by road vehicles). This saving has the potential to improve the life quality in Europe by 1.4%.
The timeline and the recent application of composites in automotive industry as a replacement for traditional materials have been started since 1940s when first fiberglass body shell and air suspension is used in Stout 46. Since 1990s composites have find their place in mass-produced cars. The BMW i3 model (2013) can be considered as the world’s first mass-produced carbon fiber automobile, where the passenger cell is completely made of CFRP. The growing trend of using plastics and composites is considered as a weight reduction option to decrease the CO2 emission.
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