In South Korea, composites manufacturers are focusing on lightweight automotive materials to address a booming market


Automotive Composites Solutions in South Korea
A worldwide growing market

The global automotive composites market was valued at US$ 3,062.7 Mn in 2014, and is expected to increase to US$ 7,019.7 Mn by 2022 at a CAGR of 8.8%, fueled by increased automobile production. Rising industrialization and an increasing urban population, particularly in developing countries such as India and China, are encouraging the establishment of automotive manufacturing facilities in these regions.

In addition, the rising number of vehicles over the last few decades is prompting governments worldwide to adhere to environmental norms and regulations, particularly in regard to reduction of vehicle carbon emissions. Automakers are focusing on using lightweight materials to manufacture external and internal parts of vehicles in order to reduce vehicle weight, which in turn improves fuel efficiency. This is a major factor driving growth of the automotive composites market.

Carbon fibers are now widely used in manufacturing cars. Automakers can lower the weight of a car by about 400 kilograms by using carbon fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP). The product saves manufacturing time and can improve safety as the fiber can absorb high-impact collisions. The automotive carbon fiber market segment is predicted to show rapid growth. It grew from 1,000 tons to 5,000 tons between 2011 and 2015, and is expected to reach 35,000 tons by 2020.

LG Hausys, based in Seoul, has acquired six new patents for automotive materials and components; five relate to lightweight materials for use in vehicles. In addition, it is working on 12 lightweight components and vehicle weight reduction techniques, including continuous fiber thermoplastic-based bumper back beam insert molding, some of which are already commercially available. LG Hausys has also invested in a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) system from KraussMaffei to produce advanced visible automotive components made of CFRP. The company selected this particular system on account of its ability for short cycle times, high reproducibility and component quality. Among the parts being produced is a CFRP roof panel.

Toray Advanced Materials Korea has brought online its new carbon fiber material plant in Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province. The company will invest 325 billion won by 2021 to produce carbon fiber materials used mainly for lightweight automotive materials, as well as non-woven fabric and polyester film.

A new concept vehicle jointly developed by BASF and Korea’s Hyundai Motor Company was featured at the 2016 K Fair in Düsseldorf in October. The RN30 concept car is lightweighted through extensive use of rigid integral foams and semi-structural sandwich solutions. For those parts with complex geometry such as the bucket seat shell and pan, a thermoplastic composite system was used, involving continuous fiber reinforcement in injection-molded structures. This allows the seat to be lighter while still maintaining optimum strength and rigidity. The seat shell and pan owe their final shape to a matched combination of semi-finished products like tapes or laminates and injection-molding compounds.

Hanwha Advanced Materials is planning to increase the number of its manufacturing facilities abroad from eight to at least 10 by 2020. The company recently took over Azdel and Heycoustics, which are US and German auto parts manufacturers, respectively, and set up a local subsidiary in Monterrey, Mexico. Currently, Hanwha Advanced Materials is estimated to have a share of approximately 70% of the global glass mat reinforced thermoplastics (GMT) market.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Seoul recently signed a sales contract with Australian company Quickstep Holdings. Quickstep will develop and supply composite manufacturing equipment, including its patented Resin Spray Transfer (RST) and Qure (out-of-autoclave) curing machine technologies, which KIST will use to develop prototype, demonstrator and niche-volume composite parts. Delivery is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Quickstep’s patented technologies will enable medium-volume production of carbon fiber composite automotive parts, providing throughput of more than 10,000 parts per year. KIST is very well positioned within the automotive industry in South Korea.

Jun-Kyung Kim, Jeonbuk branch Composite Material Technology Institute Director General of KIST, said that this will be the first system of its kind in South Korea. “It will offer the complete capabilities that we need to continue and expand our research in the field of composite materials science, with our goal to become the world’s leading researcher in this area.”

These are just some examples of how advanced materials and manufacturing technologies are being increasingly used in the automotive industry of South Korea, to support automakers in their goal to improve energy efficiency and significantly reduce the weight of automobiles.


Written by Denzil Walton

Denzil Walton is a technical copywriter, editor and conference reporter. He has over 30 years’ experience writing on a variety of industrial and high-tech topics.


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