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

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

Asia to remain chemical giant but US shale will bring competition

July 23, 2014 1:00 pm ET

A new IHS Chemical report on global spending for chemical production predicts capacity additions will peak in 2014 at $120 billion and then will...    More

Image

DuPont quarterly sales drop, income rises

July 23, 2014 12:46 pm ET

DuPont Co.'s sales and net income experienced slight changes for the second quarter 2014, as operating earnings dropped to $1.17 per share in the...    More

OSHA probes alleged asthma link to Lear's Selma, Ala., plant

July 23, 2014 11:58 am ET

U.S. foam manufacturer Renosol Seating LLC is being investigated following allegations its workers are at risk of asthma from TDI exposure at its...    More

Image

Celanese to expand production in Brazil

July 23, 2014 11:15 am ET

Celanese Corp., the Irving, Texas-based chemicals and specialty materials company, has announced that it will expand its manufacturing capabilities...    More

Image

DSM planning North American nylon plant

July 22, 2014 11:41 am ET

Materials firm Royal DSM NV plans to build a new nylon resin plant in North America, but no decision has been made on the plant's exact location.    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events