Sabic, Kringlan Composites, and other industry partners have announced plans to development the world’s first thermoplastic composite wheel.
The new project uses Sabic’s Ultem resin system and Kringlan’s three-dimensional composite design processes to create a solution that can be used to replace traditional materials like metal and aluminium allow. Thierry Materne, Vice President, Technology & Innovation for SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business, said;
This ongoing collaboration with Kringlan is an excellent example of how we identify innovative companies with unique technology to collaborate on developing industry breakthrough for the benefit of the downstream industries that we serve.
To advance the wheel’s development, both companies have been working on a prototype for a German automotive manufacturer. The significant weight savings made possible through Kringlan’s wheel design, coupled with the ground-breaking material technology employed, can improve fuel economy. The concept also offers a more sustainable solution. Not only can emissions associated with the vehicle’s use phase be reduced, but the wheel can be manufactured with less environmental impact compared to conventional processes and it offers full system recyclability.
The design of the part also provides the flexibility for the wheel to be mounted with traditional metal spokes, or spokes with carbon fibre-reinforced composites, potentially enabling even greater weight savings.
The full composite wheel prototype complies with current standards set for metal wheels by the German testing institute TüV, increasing the opportunity to work with other automotive manufactures for the prototyping of lightweight wheels according to their specific design and specifications.
While the first application of this new technology is being used in the automotive industry, its potential reach extends to multiple industries where weight reduction is a key driver. OEMs are focused on designing their products to achieve energy efficiency certifications. With this carbon fibre composite, appliance OEMs can replace metal with a lighter and equally strong technology, which can help to reduce the amount of energy used during operation and contribute to the energy efficiency performance required for certification.
In washing machines, for example, this new three-dimensional carbon fibre composite technology can reduce the inertia compared to current metal alternatives, which can mean greater efficiency, and potentially a lower carbon footprint for the machine. Additionally, by considering the use of the resin-based carbon fibre composites appliance manufacturers can potentially save costs by reducing the number of secondary operations required to develop key parts.