Carbon Fiber in the Automotive Industry

Between 2015 and 2020, the use of carbon fiber in the automotive industry is expected to steadily increase. It’s something expected, of course, considering how amazing of a material carbon fiber is. Lighter and stronger than steel, yet with a sleek finish that’s made it very desirable as a luxury item material, it has definitely taken the automotive industry by storm.

But as with most things luxurious, it comes with a price, and that is one of the main reasons why has not yet entered a scale of mass production you would expect from a material so ideal. Nevertheless, carbon fiber in the automotive industry is only getting more and more recognition as manufacturers are figuring out ways in which to utilize it.

1. Maturity of Carbon Fiber Manufacturing Process
Manufacturing carbon fiber is a tedious process, which is also part of what accounts for its price tag. But as more and more uses are found for this durable material, so are processes tweaked and improved upon year after year that aim to be able to mass-produce carbon fiber.

2. Complexity of Material
Auto companies have fewer options when it comes to carbon fiber use, particularly in the materials used to create carbon fiber composites. Having more options would be a great start towards improving our current understanding of material complexity when it comes to carbon fiber compatibility. The great news is that material supplies are even now building upon their knowledge of how such composites are manufactured, which further allows them to have an better understanding of material interactions and what they can supply to car manufacturers in bulk.

3. Cost of Material
Car owners will undoubtedly shell out more for that they purchase, but there is a thin line between what customers want and what the automotive industry can yet manufacture – particularly when it comes to material costs. Finding the right materials and having a thorough understanding of how such materials fit together can help in identifying solutions that would cut costs for manufacturing. This would, in turn, pave the way for more carbon fiber composites to be manufactured, which could then be the catalyst for finding more processes that would allow for carbon fiber to be produced at lower costs.

4. Consistency of Supply Chain
Each company that make up the supply chain in the automotive industry typically focuses on their own specialized set of capabilities and offered options. This is risky and difficult for both the supplier and the car manufacturer as in such a volatile industry as auto-making. On one hand, there is the supplier, who has to perfect the material or manufacturing technologies that they currently have in order for them to apply to not just one specific sector. On the other hand, there is the car manufacturer, who relies on the suppliers that they choose for their end products to produce consistent materials needed for car manufacturing. Having a weak link in the supply chain puts the automakers at risk for continued commercialization at volume.

Ultimately, high-volume carbon fiber production for the automotive industry might still take years, but it’s vital that both car companies and carbon fiber manufacturers start now. Not only will it force other car manufacturers to step up their game, it could also get the ball rolling on a future where this useful material can finally be mass-produced and utilized in more affordable vehicles.

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