Automotive manufacturers are employing a wide range of new materials to reduce the weight of their vehicles and reduce emissions. These materials include new, high-strength steel and aluminum alloys, and a huge range of plastics and composites. Of these materials, continuous carbon fiber polymer composites offer the greatest potential for lightweight structures; however, there are many barriers to their widespread introduction. Currently the cost and process times of composites parts is significantly higher than traditional metals. This is being addressed by the development of new matrix materials and manufacturing processes. Recycling of composite materials is being addressed and progress is being made with new thermoplastic matrix composite materials, which are easier to recycle than thermoset matrix materials. Finally, the unique nature of composite materials presents designers and engineers with new challenges and the successful use of composite materials requires a thorough understanding of their mechanical properties.

Read Ian McEnteggart's full article published in the March 2016 issue of AM&P Magazine.