back

Coupling Thermosets and Thermoplastics – Bringing Racetrack Performance to the Roads

The CONEXUS Technology

Austrian KTM Technologies – specialised in mobility concepts, lightweight and performance technologies – have been developing the CONEXUS technology over the last years. CONEXUS is a coupling layer that allows to directly bond thermoset and thermoplastic components thanks to its specifically formulated chemical composition.

 

Applied to a thermoset laminate, the CONEXUS technology results in a surface with thermoplastic properties, allowing for direct overmoulding with thermoplastic elements such as ribs, fasteners, and local reinforcements in form of PA6, or even the possibility for ultrasonic welding.

Coupling Sustainable Materials

Striving for a more sustainable solution to apply their new technology, KTM Technologies has collaborated with Swiss expert in sustainable lightweighting solutions, Bcomp. The brake cover of a motocross bike has been designed from the ground up to make full use of the best traits from both the thermoset and thermoplastic worlds. Bcomp’s technical ampliTex™ flax prepregs are used to create a lightweight yet stiff structure. The cured flax fibre composite part with the CONEXUS coupling layer, which is produced at the partner company ALBA tooling & Engineering GmbH, is then completed with reinforcement ribs, fasteners, and edge protection in the form of PA6 that is over-moulded in a special tool at KTM’s partner Altendorfer Spritzgusswerk GmbH.

 

Overmoulding the edges of the flax fibre composite elements protects them against potential interlaminar damage caused by impacts or flying debris while also providing a pleasing appearance. Compared to a traditional, injection moulded brake cover, this new version saves weight, shows reduced vibrations while it also significantly reduces the CO2 footprint thanks to the CO2 neutral flax fabrics. The coupling layer also gives the opportunity to separate the different materials at the end of product life and recycle the PA6.

 

Using Bcomp’s technical ampliTex™ fabrics rather than a standard carbon- and glass fibre hybrid layup, reduces the CO2 footprint of the thermoset components by roughly 82%. In the event of a crash or fatal impact on the brake cover, the flax fibres show a ductile fracture behaviour – completely opposite to the sharp shattering and splintering of carbon fibres that poses a risk to the track side safety personal as well as fellow riders with an increased risk for punctures. Significant safety improvements can also be observed at the production stage where flax fibres are pleasant to work with and don’t pose any risk to the worker’s health with zero toxic fibre dust.

Aiming for Full Circularity

The current version of the brake cover still relies on traditional epoxy resins for the thermoset and virgin PA6 for the thermoplastic elements. With the current advancements in the development of fully biobased epoxy resins and completely biobased PA6 already being available, KTM Technologies is looking at creating a fully biobased version of the brake cover. While some work will be necessary to adapt the formulation of the CONEXUS coupling layer to play nicely with the biobased resin and PA6, the potential for such a solution is significant. At the parts end-of-life the thermoset and thermoplastic components can easily be separated thanks to the CONEXUS foil. PA6 can be recycled and reused to produce new parts while the flax fibre composites with biobased matrix can be used as a source of renewable energy via highly efficient thermal energy recovery in state-of-the-art waste-to-energy cogeneration plants. In this case, KTM’s CONEXUS technology can be regarded as a key player, enabling a fully circular product.

Taking Racetrack Performance to Large-Scale Road Applications

Looking at the bigger picture, this brake cover serves as a demonstrator piece and perfectly showcases the technology and its market readiness, but the real break-through happens in the form of the ongoing technology transfer from race to road. What works perfectly on the small scale of the brake cover can well be transferred to other applications in the mobility market. With the possibility of adding local reinforcements, attachment points, and edge protection to thermoset composite parts in a highly efficient process might be paving the path for natural fibre bodyworks made from ampliTex™ in large-scale production.

 

Another possibility, provided by the co-cured coupling layer, are class-A body panels that can be manufactured with fixation elements directly on the back of the part via injection molding. With this material combination, the use of additional gluing steps is needless.

About KTM Technologies

Mobility beyond existing solutions. Innovative lightweight  construction. Applied technologies.

 

Three factors that KTM Technologies deals with every day, to develop reliable and safe solutions and innovative possibilities. Expanded with a deep understanding of the entire vehicle, the highly qualified employees at KTM Technologies solve challenges in many industries – from the first idea to serial production. As a specialist in concept development, KTM Technologies GmbH has specialised in mobility concepts, high-performance and lightweight technologies.

Recent posts

thumbnail

Apr 28, 2022

Bcomp at JEC World 2022 in Paris – 3-5 May

After a 2-year break, JEC World 2022 is back ! The entire Bcomp team will be delighted to welcome you to its stand in the "Natural Fibres Area", Hall 5, A45. Bcomp's ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ solutions will also be presented throughout the event at:> JEC Innovation Industry Planet - Hall 5 G97> JEC Innovation Mobility Planet - Hall 6 D85> JEC Innovation Award area - Hall 5 Join Bcomp's CEO and co-founder Christian Fischer for a discussion about "Sustainability of Raw Materials for Composites: Boosting the Circular Revolution" on May, 3rd at 3pm in Agora 5 and online.  More information about JEC Composite Conferences For more information regarding JEC World 2022, visit the official website https://www.jec-world.events/

thumbnail

Apr 25, 2022

Mercedes-AMG GT4 race cars with natural fibre composite bumpers

Swiss sustainable lightweighting company, Bcomp, 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 bumper uses 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 new 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. https://www.bcomp.ch/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Bcomp-2021-HWA-AMG-GT-K5_low-res.mp4 Reducing environmental impact A full sustainability analysis concluded that the 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 go into landfill. Anne Mink, Manager Technical Development, HWA AG, commented: "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." Successfully reverse engineered from a carbon part Reverse engineered from HWA’s original, the natural fibre bumper’s design has been collaboratively optimised over the past 12 months. 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 frontend 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 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 inhouse 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. “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”, commented Christian Fischer, CEO and Co-Founder of Bcomp. Proven and approved technologies from race to road 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.   Download press release: Full press release Images © Bcomp - Johannes Nollmeyer

thumbnail

Apr 05, 2022

Bcomp closes CHF 32m Series B with mobility- and impact venture capital

Bcomp has closed its oversubscribed Series B financing round of CHF 32.4 million (USD 35 million) with commitment from a range of mobility-, financial, and impact investment companies The strategic group of investors consists of automotive venture capital from BMW i Ventures, Volvo Cars Tech Fund and Porsche Ventures – alongside Airbus Ventures, Generali, and existing investors – collectively adding new competencies to help fuel Bcomp's hyper growth The financing enables Bcomp to scale its workforce, increase its global and domestic production capacity and strengthen its commercial footprint The combination of investors is unique and confirms the strong interest from the market in Bcomp's technologies, ranging from the automotive and aerospace industry to wider mobility and sustainability sectors A group of leading mobility and impact venture capital funds, including BMW i Ventures as lead investor, has completed a CHF 32.4 million (USD 35 million) investment in sustainable lightweighting specialists Bcomp, as the Swiss scale-up closed its Series B financing round this month. Its natural fibre-based sustainable lightweighting solutions enable substantial weight- and CO2 emission reductions versus standard materials, with applications ranging from FORMULA 1 and automotive, to aerospace, yachts, and infrastructure. The new funding will help scale the business to a global commercial and production footprint, maximising its sustainability impact. Bcomp is active in the automotive and mobility, motorsports, marine, sports, and other industry sectors. Its proprietary reinforcement technologies ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ are used for making light and stiff composites that enable reduction of the environmental impact of products. This is achieved through weight reduction, dematerialisation, renewable raw materials, and viable end-of-life options. They offer significantly higher vibration damping and can reduce the risk of sharp shattering. The flax fibres used to produce ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ sequester CO2 during their growth and act as a rotational crop to improve soil health and subsequent harvests. They are also indigenous to their growth areas, which results in low water and fertiliser requirements for long-term sustainability. Once the parts are no longer needed, the mono-material can be recycled or used for energy recovery in incineration plants. The OEMs associated with the investors have first-hand experience with Bcomp technologies. BMW has tested and validated Bcomp’s ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ technologies in leading motor racing categories since 2019. Starting with the iFE.20 Formula E race car, the technologies were also used for parts of the 2020 BMW M4 DTM bodywork and include the recently announced BMW M4 GT customer racing exterior and interior. The next step is transferring the sustainable technologies and scaling their impact to road-homologated cars. Volvo Cars first worked with Bcomp in 2018 for the Volvo Ocean Race Recycled Plastics Demonstrator Vehicle, followed by its most recent concept car, the Volvo Cars Concept Recharge in 2021. The Volvo Cars Concept Recharge demonstrates the steps Volvo Cars intends to take in all areas of pure electric car development to reduce its cars’ and its overall carbon footprint. Inside the Volvo Cars Concept Recharge, Volvo Cars has used Bcomp’s natural fibre composites for the lower storage areas, back of the headrest and the footrest. For the exterior, it is used for the front and rear bumpers as well as the sill mouldings. Volvo Cars is actively exploring the use of natural fibre composites in its next generation of pure electric cars. Furthermore, Volvo Cars’ strategic affiliate Polestar aims to adopt Bcomp materials for most of the interior panels of the Polestar 5, the production evolution of the Polestar Precept, which is expected to be launched in 2024. Porsche AG worked alongside the Bcomp team to develop the first natural fibre composite motorsport door in 2019, with the project being listed as a finalist in the JEC Innovation Awards. Following that success, Porsche Motorsports leveraged the benefits of ampliTex™ and powerRibs™ in the production of both exterior and interior vehicle components for the Cayman 718 GT4 CS MR, culminating in the launch of Porsche’s visionary fully electric Mission R concept car in 2021. Many of the Mission R's add-on parts are made using Bcomp’s natural fibre reinforced plastic (NFRP). The natural fibre material can be seen on the car’s exterior, such as the front splitter, the doors, the side skirts and the diffuser. “The success of this investment round is testament to the many years of hard work from the whole team, paving the way for us to scale Bcomp to an entirely new level. We put a very strong focus on attracting strategic investors, but never could I have imagined closing the round with some of the most prestigious Venture Capitalists from the automotive, aerospace, mobility, impact- and finance sectors. The strong interest from our targeted large-scale mobility markets is clear. Now is the time to scale our production and deploy our global strategy. We are very excited to open this new chapter with the great support of our new partners, developing Bcomp as the global leader of sustainable lightweight material solutions, and making our contribution to the circular economy.” says Christian Fischer, Bcomp CEO. “We are very proud to announce our Series B closing, marking a very important milestone in the development of Bcomp. We are grateful to our long-term investors who have yet again contributed to this round, and we are extremely happy to welcome some of the best strategic and financial investors we could have wished for.” says Tobias Laederach, Bcomp CFO.   The new investors include automotive OEM venture funds BMW i Ventures, Porsche Ventures and Volvo Cars Technology Fund AB, alongside Airbus Ventures, Generali, and existing shareholders, collectively adding new competencies to help fuel Bcomp’s hyper growth. The interest in this minority investment round was significant, resulting in an oversubscribed round.       Download press release with note to editors: Full press release Full press release in German High-res image package Media Enquiries Christopher Foster Navigate Partners christopher@navigate.partners +44 (0) 7525 471332