Canadian Manufacturing

Ford, Dow partner to research cost-effective carbon fibre

Ford signed a joint agreement with Dow joint venture DowAksa to develop carbon fibre parts that fit current manufacturing capabilities

Beginning with the “small block” 5.0 liter Ford Mustang GT as its base, every aspect of the car is enhanced or replaced. Photo: Business Wire

Ford is researching ways to use carbon fibre parts normally found in high-performance models into everyday rides. Photo: Business Wire

DEARBORN, Mich.—Ford Motor Co. has signed a joint development agreement (JDA) to research cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing of automotive-grade carbon fibre, a material poised to play a significant role in the drive to make vehicles lighter for greater fuel efficiency, performance and capability.

The agreement, between Ford Motor Company, Ford Global Technologies and DowAksa—a 50/50 joint venture between The Dow Chemical Co. and Turkish company Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii A.Ş—will combine DowAksa’s feedstock capacity, carbon fibre conversion and downstream intermediates production with Ford’s expertise in design, engineering and high-volume manufacturing.

The goal is to produce cost-effective carbon fibre composite parts that are much lighter than steel but meet automotive strength requirements.

“This joint development agreement reinforces Ford’s commitment to our partnership with DowAksa, and our drive to bring carbon fibre components to the broader market,” said Mike Whitens, director of Vehicle Enterprise Sciences at Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

The JDA allows the companies to collaboratively generate new, lower-cost automotive grades of carbon fibre while maintaining compatibility with both thermoset and thermoplastic matrices. The agreement also includes a pathway for potential extension of development collaboration into a commercial manufacturing partnership.

“Today’s agreement marks another milestone in the partnership to develop lightweighting solutions for the automotive industry,” said DowAksa Chairman Heinz Haller. “Ford and DowAksa’s collaboration will accelerate delivery of advanced materials and technologies to meet and exceed expectations for high performance and fuel economy.”

The companies will also be part of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), announced by President Obama as part of the larger National Network for Manufacturing Innovation supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. The JDA will facilitate the companies’ efforts in conjunction with IACMI to overcome the high cost and limited availability of carbon fibre in automotive applications.

“Automotive manufacturers’ use of carbon fibre composites has been hindered by the absence of both high-volume manufacturing methods and affordable material formats,” said DowAska Vice Chairman Mehmet Ali Berkman. “This partnership combines the individual strengths of each company to target these challenges.”

DowAksa was formed in June 2012, combining the strengths of Dow, as the world leader in epoxy chemistry and resins, and the capabilities of Aksa, a producer of acrylic fibres.

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