The automotive industry faces many challenges, including increased global competition, the need for higher-performance vehicles, a reduction in costs and stringent environmental and safety requirements. The materials used in automotive engineering play key roles in overcoming these issues: ultimately lighter materials mean lighter vehicles and lower emissions. Fibre reinforced composites (FRC) are being used increasingly in the automotive industry due to their strength, quality and light weight. The primary use of FRC in automobiles, with the exception of a few specialized low volume vehicles, has been in semi-structural or decorative parts. Use of FRC for primary and secondary structural components, such as body structures, has been very limited till to date.
In addition to materials cost, there are four dominant criterions have been identified for significant application of FRC materials in automotive structures:
(1) Proof of structural functionality/durability;
(2) development of rapid, reproducible fabrication procedures to optimize manufacturing economics;
(3) corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) of 54.5 mpg;
(4) Low CO2 emissions.
These standards need to be achieved by 2025, set by the developed economies such as United States, United Kingdom and Europe. Both safety and gas mileage advances have been pushed by regulation and pulled by consumer demand. Recently, Government of India has updated the carbon emission norms and decided to shift from B-IV to B-VI norms by 2020, looking into environmental protection and use of clean energy in regard to its commitment made in the Paris conference. This has pushed the Indian automobile industry imports/exports on the back foot compared to their competitors in other developing countries.
From a structural viewpoint, there are two major categories of material response which are critical to the application of composites to automobiles include fatigue (durability) and energy absorption. It is clear that the fundamental requirements of energy absorption and fatigue resistance properties are satisfied by composites. However, the main challenge is to translate these capabilities into complex structures with less well-defined load inputs. The less quantifiable, but equally important, functional requirement of ride quality (usually defined in terms of noise, vibration and ride harshness,(NVH) also appears to be attainable through the utilisation of FRC composites.
This factor has been historically related to vehicle stiffness however, composite materials reinforced with high performance fibres such as glass, carbon fibres and their hybrids meets the effective stiffness of the structures and thus satisfies the NVH requirements. Application of near-net shaped preforms developed on customly designed and indigenously develop technology coupled with low cost molding techniques which will certainly reduces the post-processing operations, hence the overall cost of the finished component by elimination of joints through part integration plays a critical role in achieving such synergistic effects.
It is proposed to develop a low cost, dent free and recyclable, material having high specific strength and stiffness to suit the need of the current day automotive sector. This newly custom designed and developed material will support the automobile manufactures to achieve the necessary standards to dilute the competition.