Carbon fiber is really quite an amazing product. But the days when it was a hyper-exotic material found only on the most expensive of products are coming to an end. Now, companies have to find ways to make it practical to live with on a large scale. Though manufacturing costs have decreased significantly over the past decade, there is still plenty of room for improvement, and to that end, BMW and Boeing have just formed a partnership to join forces in carbon fiber research.
The strong and lightweight material obviously has no shortage of uses in either the automotive or aeronautical industries, and for two non-competing companies to pool their resources makes all the sense in the world. Both Boeing and BMW will collaborate on manufacturing process simulations as well as ideas for manufacturing automation. But most importantly, they will also be working on ideas for carbon fiber recycling, an often overlooked process when just keeping manufacturing costs down takes so much effort. The environmental impact of carbon fiber has been fairly minimal up until this point, as the cost has prevented it from being used too extensively. But as it becomes more widely adopted, this recycling research will become more important. As Larry Schneider, Boeing’s vice president of product development, put it at the signing of the agreement “This collaboration agreement is a very important step forward in developing the use and end use of carbon fiber materials.” The agreement will hopefully lead to cheaper carbon fiber and an increase in its use, meaning weight reduction for more fuel efficient vehicles, while also helping to boost performance.
This agreement is especially good news for the state of Washington, where BMW is building a new facility, and where the bulk of the aforementioned research will be carried out.