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Natural fibre techologies in pole position

Posted on 01 May 2022 and read 836 times
Natural fibre techologies in pole positionSwitzerland-based Bcomp, a sustainable lightweighting company, is now supplying its high-performance natural fibre technologies to HWA AG —– development partner of Mercedes-AMG — for the new front bumpers on Mercedes-AMG GT4 race cars.

Set to be phased in over the coming weeks, Bcomp’s bodywork solutions will provide a sustainable alternative to the GT4’s existing carbon fibre panels, offering equivalent mechanical performance in stiffness and weight and improving safety.

The new bumpers use Bcomp’s innovative ‘ampliTex’ and‘“powerRibs’ technologies, which harness
the natural advantages of flax fibre. The powerRibs reinforcement grid uses the high specific bending stiffness of flax to build up height very efficiently, boosting the flexural stiffness of thin-walled shell elements significantly.

The bumpers are also safer in the event of a crash or collision and decrease the risk of punctures significantly. Unlike the sharp fracturing and splintering of carbon fibre, ampliTex technical fabrics are far more ductile in an impact, whereas the powerRibs confine the damage zone, minimising debris and the risks to drivers, marshals, and spectators.

A full sustainability analysis concluded that the manufacture of a new bumper offered a total material emission reduction of 90% when compared to the carbon fibre part as well as an 85% reduction of CO2 emissions from ‘cradle-to-gate’, considering all production steps from raw material to final part. Not only do Bcomp’s materials reduce the part’s carbon cost, but they also introduce the option of thermal energy recovery.

Since the new bumper is full natural fibre, it can be used for thermal energy recovery, turning
approximately 80% of the energy stored in the part into renewable energy, resulting in a process
without hazardous carbon waste or parts that need to be sent to landfill.

Collaboratively optimised

Reverse-engineered from HWA’s original, the natural fibre bumper’s design has been collaboratively
optimised over the past year and to ensure that the bumper met all racing regulations and
requirements, the HWA team performed extensive mechanical testing and validation.

On the HWA testbench, the stiffness of the complete front end of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was measured, simulating the aerodynamic drag and front diffusor downforce. The tests were conducted with a carbon fibre bumper as a benchmark and afterwards with the new natural fibre bumper, validating that the newly designed part performs on the same high-performance level.

Furthermore, part of the project was to validate the HWA in-house paint processes with ampliTex and
powerRibs, optimising the A-surface quality of the part up to a level that meets the quality standards of HWA and Mercedes-AMG motorsport. Production of the old carbon fibre bumpers has now ceased, and all customer teams will receive the new Bcomp version with their next orders.

Bcomp’s award-winning technologies are already used in 16 racing series around the world, but their
applications are not restricted to motorsport. From automotive interior panels and bodywork to luxury yachting and the European Space Agency’s latest natural fibre satellite panels, Bcomp’s technologies are relied upon wherever weight, stiffness and sustainability are important. With the GT4 cars closely based on their road-going counterparts, these racing projects open up opportunities for future high-performance road applications.

Christian Fischer, CEO and co-founder of Bcomp, said: “We are incredibly excited to see HWA
and the Mercedes-AMG GT4 race car programme embracing sustainable, natural fibre bodywork. With equivalent stiffness and weight, increased safety and an 85% reduction in carbon emissions, it is a fantastic improvement that we reached together.

“Development coincided with the height of the pandemic, and it was challenging at times. In fact, our first bumper build, design fitting, optimisations and revisions were all achieved during the pandemic – a testimony to the hard work and persistence of all involved. It has been a pleasure to work with the talented HWA team and we very much look forward to investigating further applications in race and high-performance road cars.”

Anne Mink, HWA AG, technical development manager, said: “The topic of sustainability plays a major role in our company. Several awards for our efforts in the area of environmental protection are proof of this. Part of our sustainability concept is to evaluate and optimise the product life cycle with regard to environmental aspects as early as in the product development stage.

“Furthermore, it is our aspiration to constantly adapt our long-standing engineering know-how to current environmental requirements in order to be able to offer our customers sustainable products at the highest technological level.

“In Bcomp, we have got a development partner with extensive experience in sustainable materials. The result of our cooperation shows that technologically equivalent components can be created from alternative materials.”