Lightweighting in the automotive industry

Why textiles are the perfect replacement material

Lightweighting, which involves vehicle weight reduction, presents significant opportunities and challenges for the automotive industry. It is undoubtedly also a key driver of material innovation that is transforming how the industry manufactures and operates as a whole.

Part of the shift towards lightweighting can be attributed to its positive impact in terms of improving fuel economy and reducing carbon emissions, a key concern for businesses as they strive to become more energy efficient as well as meet increasingly stringent regulations. However, that’s not the only benefit – using materials that are stronger yet lighter than traditional steel can also improve vehicle performance, handling and safety.

Using aluminium has been one of the strategies that manufacturers have adopted in their switch to lightweight solutions, but this has its own challenges and involves a production process that isn’t very environmentally-friendly. Another solution lies in the use of advanced materials, and as a recent headline in the Financial Times proclaims: ‘Composites are next big frontier for carmakers’*

At Coats, we’ve been investing in R&D and partnering with experts to create innovative new products that can accelerate current manufacturing processes and revolutionise composite technology across a range of industries, including the automotive industry.

Our Coats Synergex range was developed at our state-of-the-art facilities in North Carolina, and delivers a perfect balance of strength, weight and performance for the automotive and aerospace industries. It also reduces waste and costs and offers recyclability.

Coats Synergex is a range of advanced composite fibres that can be processed into fabric form using technologies such as twisting and commingling. The advantage lies in an acceleration of the manufacturing process; instead of using resins or autoclave, the composite fibres can be embroidered directly into complex shapes and the final composite parts can be metal pressed.

Coats has also partnered with Elemental Group Ltd in the creation and development of the Rp1 sports car wheel arch which features Synergex. The wheel arch is made in four steps. The carbon fibre and nylon are woven together to create a single commingled yarn. The yarn is then embroidered into shape using a Tailored Fibre Placement (TFP) preforming process. Once the shape is precisely stitched, it is then placed in the machine mould and pressed to form the wheel arch. The parts can be finished to a high standard without the need to use resins or autoclave.

Choosing a material for the Rp1’s wheel arch presented a few challenges as it had to be lightweight, extremely robust and flexible to achieve the complex shape of the part. The properties of Coats Synergex ticked all the boxes.

– Peter Kent, Composites Director, Elemental

Our partnership with Elemental is an example of our focus on customer-led innovation. Combining our specialist product expertise and newly developed range of composite fibres with Elemental’s automotive knowledge offers potential for much more successful and effective applications.

– Rajiv Sharma, Global CEO, Coats

* The Financial Times, 28 October 2016