Bilsing sees growing automotive business from carbon fiber

Dustin Walsh
CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

Published: November 4, 2013 1:59 pm ET
Updated: November 4, 2013 2:05 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Materials Automotive Materials Suppliers
Companies & Associations

Carbon fiber is 10 times stronger than steel and four times lighter, experts in the automotive industry say. Because of its high price, it has been used mostly on European supercars such as Ferrari and McLaren. But as prices fall, it's entering a more mass market on vehicles such as BMW's electric i3, which is predicted to sell 30,000 units annually.

Bilsing Automation North America Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Bilsing Automation GmbH in Germany, is seeing and profiting from an opportunity for carbon fiber in the auto industry in a whole new way — with the material used in the frame system for automation equipment.

Bilsing, based in the Detroit suburb of Clinton Township, began offering carbon fiber on its systems in 2005, but the business has only just started to pick up, said Benjamin Pauzus Jr., general manager of Bilsing Automation North America.

Carbon fiber prices have dropped from $35 a pound in 2003 to $10-$15 today, according to estimates reported by Automotive News.

The supplier recently completed a project at Chrysler Group LLC's truck plant in Saltillo, Mexico, where 18 robots failed because of excessive vibration of the automation machine's heavy aluminum parts, Pauzus said.

Bilsing designed a carbon fiber frame for the machines, which cut the tool's weight to 636 pounds from more than 1,200. The lighter weight made it possible for the robots to meet requirements for speed and positioning and smoothed out their operation. Without carbon fiber, the carmaker would have needed to invest in larger, more expensive robots.

"The material cost is 4.5 times more than steel, but they would have had to double the size of their existing robots to handle the inertia," Pauzus said. "Using carbon fiber, they also reduced wear time of the machines by a third."

Despite the high upfront costs of carbon fiber, Pauzus said, customers are seeing long-term savings. Chrysler saved roughly $2.7 million by retrofitting robots with carbon fiber as opposed to buying new machines, Pauzus said.

Bilsing created several videos for its customers about the benefits of carbon fiber and its abilities, which is moving the needle for smaller customers, he said.

"We've had to do some myth-busting for our customers — burn it, crush it, to show them how it will react compared to aluminum or steel," Pauzus said. "As we educate them more, we'll see more and more moving toward carbon fiber over tradition materials."


Comments

Bilsing sees growing automotive business from carbon fiber

Dustin Walsh
CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

Published: November 4, 2013 1:59 pm ET
Updated: November 4, 2013 2:05 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Resin prices remain unpredictable

April 27, 2015 12:23 pm ET

Oil prices leveled off a bit in March, but North American commodity resin prices remained as unpredictable as ever.    More

Image

Dow Chemical bullish about prospect for global polyurethane markets

April 27, 2015 11:17 am ET

MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS — Glenn Wright, president of Dow Chemical Co.’s polyurethanes and formulated systems business, revealed that...    More

Image

PolyOne launches Geon BIO PVC using soy-based materials

April 24, 2015 11:48 am ET

More than a decade of research is paying off for Battelle Memorial Institute in the form of Geon BIO PVC compounds from PolyOne Corp.    More

Image

Study suggests infants at lower risk from BPA exposure than expected

April 23, 2015 4:58 pm ET

A new study shows that newborn babies may have less risk from bisphenol A exposure than originally thought.    More

Image

Braskem and Odebrecht reconsidering West Virginia plastics project

April 23, 2015 2:54 pm ET

Brazilian firms Braskem and Odebrecht have confirmed that they are re-evaluating Project Ascent, the major plastics and petrochemicals project they ha...    More

Market Reports

North American Thermoformed Packaging Market Outlook & Review 2015

Our annual report provides a thorough review and analysis of economic and political conditions, emerging market trends, packaging design advances, materials pricing and sustainable packaging issues impacting supply and demand in the TP segment. Our analysts identify key drivers of growth and opportunities for processors to remain competitive in the years ahead through innovation, production efficiencies and more.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 15, 2015 - September 17, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events