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Carbon fiber taking aim at metals’ auto, aero business

Keywords: Tags  carbon fiber, Antony Dodworth, Doworth Design, Jens Hinrichsen, Aerospace Advisory Group, Edward Carson, Growth Management & Constructive Changes, steel aluminum

CHICAGO — The carbon fiber industry is setting its sights on the automotive and aerospace sectors as production becomes more efficient and users grow more accustomed to working with the material, industry executives said Sept. 23.

Carbon fiber’s targets include aluminum and glass-aluminum hybrids as the industry boosts capacity and works to make its products more affordable, the executives said, touting the product’s high strength and light weight.

"Today, faster resins and highly automated manufacturing processes are all reducing cost tremendously," Antony Dodworth, managing director of British design consultancy Dodworth Design, said in a statement.

Carbon fibers should continue to find new applications in the automotive sector in areas where they make more sense than traditional materials, he said. "Cars of the future will be multi-material, using the best material to meet volume and performance."

Automakers are looking to lightweight vehicles as they seek to meet stricter government fuel economy standards, with various industries—including steel, aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber—seeing opportunities in the push to slash weight (, June 26, Sept. 20 and Sept. 19).

Weight is also a key concern in the aerospace sector, according to Jens Hinrichsen, managing director and owner of Aerospace Advisory Group LLC, New Alexandria, Pa. "Composite applications will deliver a crucial combination to achievements in reducing weight as well as aerodynamic friction drag, which is the overarching challenge of the future," he said.

But to take advantage of such opportunities, the carbon fiber sector must learn from industries that have already moved from being niche to commodity suppliers, Edward Carson, owner and chief executive officer of Reno, Nev.-based Growth Management & Constructive Changes LLC, said in a statement. "The commodity stage is affected by the increasing complexity of enhanced manufacturing productability."

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