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An epoxy resin system from Huntsman Advanced Materials has been specified by the BMW Group to manufacture structural composite parts on the new BMWi3 in volume production.
Huntsman explains that its materials are being used to produce the side frame as well other composite parts which are then assembled to form the BMWi3’s ‘life module’, also called the passenger cell’.
BMW describes the innovative architecture of the BMWi3 as having two main elements, the aluminium Drive module – which incorporates the powertrain, chassis, battery, and structural crash functions – and the Life module or passenger cell, made from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP).
The company claims the LifeDrive concept and use of CFRP allows production time to be cut by half compared to those required for an equivalent car built along conventional lines. It says the process is less investment-intensive as the high costs required for a conventional press shop and paint shop are no longer an issue and the Life and Drive modules can be manufactured alongside one another.
Structural body components on the i3 are being manufactured using high pressure RTM (HP-RTM) – a processing method now recognised as a key technology for large-scale production and excellent component properties.
The process involves making 3D dry carbon stack preforms using Araldite LT 3366 as a binder powdered on the surface of the reinforcements. This helps to maintain correct fibre alignment and geometry during automated manipulation and positioning of the dry preform into the mould.
Huntsman says it’s epoxy RTM system Araldite LY 3585 / Hardener XB 3458 is then injected at high pressure into the mould. The system’s low viscosity plays an important role in the entire process, from the dosing and mixing right through to impregnation and good fibre wet-out in the mould.
According to Huntsman, by offering good thermomechanical performance, including a high elongation at break, the properties of this Araldite RTM system are beneficial for automotive structural parts and requirements to meet crash test criterion.
Huntsman expects its materials to now be used on the second model in the ‘i’ line-up of plug-in cars from BMW when the larger i8 sports coupe goes into production this year.
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