Metal alloys and composites come in a version often referred to as “lightweight materials.” They can decrease the weight of components and parts used in a number of industries, such as automotive, aircrafts, and windmills, without affecting the strength and efficiency of the parts or the final structure of the end-use system.
The efficiency of lightweight materials depends on the mixture of the alloys or composites used. They are of different grades/types and their use depends on the requirement and demand from its end-use industries. Lightweight materials can have high strength-to-weight ratio, exceptional corrosion resistance, and greater design flexibility compared to traditional materials.
Lightweight materials are made up of highly permeable materials with minimal weight, such as lightweight steel, magnesium, aluminum and titanium. These metal alloys are non-ferrous metals with low density, high strength to weight ratio, and high corrosive resistance. They suit forming, machining, and welding processes.
In 2014, the world vehicle production was pegged at 68,539,516 vehicles, which increased by 1.1% to reach 69,293,451 in 2015. Thus, rise in demand for fuel-efficient lightweight vehicles is anticipated to fuel the overall world lightweight materials market.
Use of carbon fibers in vehicles reduces up to 20% of the overall vehicle weight. In April 2016, ExxonMobil launched ‘Exceed XP,’ a high performance polymer for construction liners and vehicle interiors. However, the initial costs of carbon fibers are higher than other polymers, thus challenging the adoption of carbon fibers widely. Moreover, automotive interiors require more amount of carbon fiber, which results in higher cost per vehicle.
Carbon fiber and steel production have experienced a rapid increase over the last few years due to increase in demand from automotive manufacturers as well as increase in R&D and innovations.
Currently, most of the automotive manufacturers prefer carbon fibers and composites due to their extraordinary properties, including lightweight and strength. Carbon fibers are manufactured from polyacrylonitrile.
The process of manufacturing carbon fibers is partly mechanical and partly chemical during which a variety of liquids and gases are used. Carbon fibers are manufactured by the process of carbonization, which includes heating of polyacrylonitrile that leaves behind a carbon fiber, composed of tightly interlocked chains of carbon atoms.
Carbon fibers have high stiffness, low weight, high tensile strength, low thermal expansion, and high temperature tolerance, thus they are preferred in the manufacture of automobiles, aircraft, civil engineering, motorsports, and other sports goods. In March 2013, Zoltek Corporation introduced a low-cost and innovative solution for CNG winding under the brand name TowPreg to reduce production costs for pressure vessel applications by adding an epoxy resin to it.
However, there are challenges to increased use of carbon fiber. Those challenges include cost of the material, the high cost of maintenance, repairs and recycling, which will inhibit wider use of this material.
Allied Market Research
Filed Under: Make Parts Fast