The global drive to reduce CO2 emissions and enhance efficient use of natural resources makes lightweighting a critical concept. A 10% reduction in vehicle weight can result in a 6-8% fuel economy improvement. Alternatives to conventional materials include composites that offer enhanced durability and lower maintenance costs, or specialty adhesives that join materials with different chemical compositions. Coatings are another example, helping to reduce the overall weight of vehicles, as only one or two layers are sufficient, compared to conventional four-layer coatings. There are also a whole variety of customized and modular products, made possible by novel machining capabilities such as additive manufacturing.
CAGR growth in composites in Automotive in next 10 years1
Growth of composites in Aerospace in next 10 years2
Growth of composites in offshore oil pipes/risers3
Challenges for customers
The main challenges for customers beyond lightweighting are maintenance and repair, sustainability/recycling, crash simulation/mechanical resistance, cost reduction and faster production cycle.
Opportunities for Solvay
Solvay innovations put us in a strong position to offer our customers lightweighting solutions.
- Our high-performance polymers improve aerospace engine efficiency and downsizing.
- Our solutions for aerospace structures are world-leading, with thermoset composites that offer unique benefits in aerodynamics, design, part integration and corrosion resistance.
- With the broadest specialty polymers portfolio and in-depth expertise in composite material technologies, we are the leader in thermoplastic composites (TPC) for the aerospace & automotive industries. Meeting escalating demand requires new technologies and approaches to yield lighter components and reduce aircraft construction time significantly. TPC are expected to play an increasingly important role, as a TPC part can reduce manufacturing costs by 20 to 30% compared to metals or polymer materials.
Customer-centric thermoplastic composites innovation
To meet the challenges facing the industry and for faster development in thermoplastic composites we created a dedicated structure around a diversified team of experts who work closely with our customers to accelerate innovation and develop commercial applications. In 2019, we also opened two dedicated innovation centers, in Brussels (Belgium) and Alpharetta (USA) offering state-of-the-art assets and capabilities to support customers in the early-stage design, prototyping and testing of parts and so dramatically reduce the time to market of our materials. The centers build on Solvay’s unmatched vertically integrated portfolio of specialty polymers and carbon fiber composites and, with our recent capacity expansions, complete the infrastructure that supports the industrialization of our thermoplastic materials technology.
Sources: 1: Roland Berger, 2: Bain – BSR Composites, 3: source: UBS Global Research – October 8, 2019