ZF sees a future in composites

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: January 14, 2014 4:32 pm ET
Updated: January 15, 2014 6:45 pm ET

ZF currently has a prototype suspension strut and knuckle module which uses a mixture of materials including carbon fiber and glass fiber reinforced plastics, aluminum and high strength steel.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive, Resin Transfer Molding, Composites

DETROIT — Germany's ZF Friedrichshafen AG is preparing for the auto industry's future by making sure it can provide the most efficient transmissions, sturdy suspensions and a strong electronic infrastructure, but linking all of the parts that go into those systems is the need to be able to make those parts lighter.

That leads the company to high-end composites.

"We are heavily investing because we believe that light weight will be a part of all future technology," CEO Stefan Sommer said in an interview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 14. "It's the most efficient [technology] because it's not dependent on different drivetrains or different rules which would change the way we drive."

ZF has been known as a major player in high-end metal systems for decades, but opened its first composite technology center, in Schweinfurt, Germany, in 2013. The center was aimed at studying how to bring fiber-reinforced plastics to structural parts such as springs, struts, links and joints.

It already has an all-plastic brake pedal in production.

"Every kilogram you can remove comes into consideration every time to accelerate or decelerate," Sommer said.

The company has developed a research vehicle with multiple new technology — including an electric drive and composite structural parts — and is running road tests with it now.

ZF recently signed an agreement to sell its Rubber & Plastics business unit to Zhuzhou Times New Material Technology Co. Ltd. of Zhuzhou, Hunan province. That business is mostly rubber-to-metal parts and some commodity plastics, Sommer said. Going forward, the company can now focus its experts in long fiber-reinforced plastics, using both glass and carbon fibers.

"We want to keep all of this technology and know-how in-house, because we see a lot of potential for this in the future," he said.

ZF estimated it already has spent more than 3 million euros ($4.1 million) in equipment and buildings for its new composites center.

Work at the center will focus initially on resin transfer molding to improve processing and develop simulations for future products along with developing individual parts and material joining systems.

ZF currently has a prototype suspension strut and knuckle module which uses a mixture of materials including carbon-fiber and glass-fiber-reinforced plastics, aluminum and high-strength steel.

The part would cut weight by 40 percent.

It is in prototype testing now, which likely will take two to three years before ZF begins to offer it to the customer. Sommer said he would not expect to see it in production until 2018 or possibly 2020, but that timing would fit into the U.S. government's requirement for vehicles to hit 54.5 miles per gallons by 2025.

"Even beyond that, we have had a lot of spinoffs that come from that research into other parts, which would be ready for production earlier," he said.


Comments

ZF sees a future in composites

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: January 14, 2014 4:32 pm ET
Updated: January 15, 2014 6:45 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastic Omnium makes China investment push

February 26, 2015 4:35 pm ET

Three of the six new plants that automotive molder Plastic Omnium SA plans this year will be in China, part of a broader push it’s making in...    More

Image

Jagemann expands to meet rising demand from auto industry

February 18, 2015 2:50 pm ET

Jagemann Precision Plastics is expanding its Murfreesboro, Tenn., plant to meet rising demand for insert-molded parts.    More

Image

Plastics firms honored for work in product development, manufacturing

February 17, 2015 4:09 pm ET

Sealpac USA LLC, Dow Chemical Co.'s automotive systems group, Piper Plastics Inc. and Igus Inc. were honored for their efforts in the development new ...    More

Image

TransNav, Rompa Group form JV covering Europe, North America

February 17, 2015 5:28 pm ET

TransNav Inc, of New Baltimore, Mich., and the Tilburg, Netherlands-based Rompa Group have established an injection molding and thermoforming joint...    More

Image

Patrick Industries buys RV supplier Better Way Partners

February 17, 2015 5:16 pm ET

Building products producer and distributor Patrick Industries Inc. continues to ride the vigorous recreational vehicle market in the state of Indiana.    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

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 in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events