“The EV market is extremely important to Dymag”

Founded in 1974 by Max Boxstrom, Dymag has led the way in wheel design and manufacture for over 40 years. On track and road, the group’s cutting-edge technologies are well known to all racing sports teams. Always seeking to innovate with lightweight carbon composites combined with forged aluminium and magnesium materials, the group aims to broaden its share of the automotive market. Tom de Lange, CEO, explains how. This interview has been published in the JEC Composites Magazine N°149.

“The EV market is extremely important to Dymag”

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JEC Composites Magazine: Could you briefly introduce Dymag?
Tom de Lange: “For almost 50 years, Dymag has produced world-beating wheel technology for the road and the racetrack. Launched in 1974, the company initially produced magnesium wheels for F1, Indy-Car, IMSA, Moto GP and Superbike championship winners, including Senna, Mansell, Prost, Sheene, Fogarty, Dunlop and Hislop. Most notably, in partnership with Radford Lotus, Dymag supplied wheels for a number of the successful JPS Lotus F1 cars, including some of those driven by Ayrton Senna.

Dymag began making carbon composite wheels for road and track motorcycles in 1995, launching the world’s first carbon composite motorcycle wheel. A one-of-akind, it was certified for road and racing use, and won the World Motorcycle Endurance Championship at the first attempt.

In 2004, Dymag became the world’s first company to productionise composite hybrid wheels for road cars, a technology that was quickly adopted by OEMs who wanted striking lightweight wheels whose function matched form.

Almost two decades on, Dymag is now best known for advanced wheel technology that combines lightweight carbon composites with a forged aluminium or magnesium centre piece. The design has constantly evolved over that time and its latest iteration features a number of unique patented technologies that make it lighter and stronger than the competition.

When the industry shifted from die-cast magnesium wheels to forged magnesium wheels, the forging supply was tightly controlled by just a few companies. Dymag looked for alternative production methods. Composites were determined to be the best solution. It then poured all of its resources into creating the best and first commercially-available carbon fibre wheel.”

The Dymag process begins with wrapping the layers of plain weave and NCF fi bres around a cylindrical mandrel.

You decided to focus on a hybrid design consisting of a forged aluminium or magnesium centre piece with a carbon fibre composite rim. What are the main advantages of this design and why didn’t you choose a full carbon fibre wheel?
Tom de Lange: “Dymag’s carbon hybrid design blends a carbon fibre barrel (the outer section) with a metallic centre piece (the inner section). By using carbon in areas that have the most impact on the inertia of the wheel, and high strength forged aluminium or magnesium in the spokes (where carbon is less optimal due to the compressive forces experienced during normal operation and particularly under impact) the wheel is not only more than 50% lighter than a traditional alloy, it is also stronger and more durable.
Wheels made featuring carbon fibre as a key component provide advantages in terms of reduced unsprung mass. Dymag’s hybrid range is over 50% lighter than a cast alloy wheel.

They also offer a reduced moment of inertia, requiring less energy to accelerate and brake. Dymag’s approach also boasts shorter development lead times compared to a carbon fibre monobloc. Although 5-10% lighter than a hybrid wheel, a carbon fibre monobloc has limited design options where large section spokes are required to provide the necessary stiff ness. Hybrid wheels have infinite centrepiece styling options and flexibility on carbon weave finishes.”

How did you develop your solution? What are the key features that best define your products?
Tom de Lange: “Our original wheel design was developed in partnership with the National Composite Centre. We opted to use Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) because it was the most appropriate production method for volume and offered a quick and scalable curing solution. Over time, we’ve reduced the complexity of the Dymag layout, leading to reduced cost and increased production volume.

The biggest technical challenge of composite wheel construction is ensuring adequate structural performance and overcoming issues with fatigue and impact strength. The unique patented structure developed in-house is our greatest asset and overcomes that challenge.”

Dymag’s hybrid wheel is not only more than 50% lighter than a traditional alloy, it is also stronger and more durable.

Could you tell us about Dymag’s current manufacturing process and facilities? How does production time cycle and cost compare with a traditional alloy wheel?
Tom de Lange: “The Dymag process begins with wrapping the layers of plain weave and NCF fibres around a cylindrical mandrel. The mould is then closed and sealed. Heated resin is then injected under vacuum. The wheel is left to cure, then demoulded and put through a high-temperature post-cure process during which it develops its full mechanical properties. Finally, it is finished and lacquered.
It’s a manual process, meaning that the wheels cost more to build than a cast alloy wheel that can be made using an automated process. We are rapidly proceeding toward mechanisation. If we achieve lower costs, the wheels will become a genuine solution for OEMs looking to reduce unsprung mass on their vehicles.”

What are your plans for increasing production and how does your partnership with Hankuk Carbon play into your strategy for growth?
Tom de Lange: “In May 2022, Dymag announced a strategic partnership with Hankuk Carbon Co Ltd, manufacturers of advanced composite materials. Our aim is to enable mass production of state-of-the-art high performance carbon composite wheels for the world’s leading automotive OEMs.
This collaboration, announced at JEC World in Paris, will leverage Dymag’s brand and experience in manufacturing lightweight carbon composite wheels for high-performance and luxury vehicles and Hankuk Carbon’s expertise in advanced materials and industrialisation. This combination of unparalleled resources and technical expertise will accelerate time-tomarket and enable economies of scale in carbon composite wheel manufacturing, in particular in series production with a focus on a uniquely scalable and localised approach.”

Is the EV market an important target for your business? What benefits can your wheels offer?
Tom de Lange: “The EV market is extremely important to Dymag. Whether it’s keeping weight down or maximising range, handling, and aerodynamics, designing an EV is a major challenge. While battery technology advances are enabling ever greater distances between charges, cars – particularly SUVs and pickups – are only getting bigger.

In addition to the advantages we’ve already mentioned our wheels are more than 50% lighter than a traditional alloy, and yet they are stronger and more durable. Further advantages come in terms of reduced unsprung mass, as well as a reduced moment of inertia, with less energy required to accelerate and brake. Another dynamic benefit is a reduced gyroscopic force as a result of the lightness of the rim itself, with less steering eff ort required. These gains can make a huge diff erence on any EV.

When a 23-inch wheel is made from traditional aluminium, the penalty is well over 20 kg per corner – all of it unsprung mass. An alloy wheel this size also operates at the very edge of that material’s capabilities, particularly if you place it on a large electric pickup truck, which could weigh more than 3,000 kg.
Controlling this rotating mass is also difficult, requiring a stronger suspension. In extreme cases, an OEM may find that the addition of larger wheels literally shakes the vehicle apart.

As SUVs and pickups get bigger and heavier, the last thing an engineer wants to do is add further weight. Dymag’s carbon composite wheels off er a way to solve these issues immediately.

What’s more, that step-change four-corner weight saving has the potential to improve range, too. The flexibility of carbon fibre can also benefit NVH – a lifeline for any engineer developing an EV where the ICE is no longer masking nasty noises. When you factor in the ability to make a wheel more aerodynamic, it is easy to see why using carbon hybrid wheels can solve so many issues.

In fact, the benefits are so great that it is best to look at carbon hybrid wheels, not in isolation, but as a key part of the whole EV solution. By adding them, a virtuous circle is created, enabling smaller batteries, lighter suspension. In addition, it requires less sound deadening. The result is simply a better-performing EV.”

How do you plan to develop your technologies in the future?
Tom de Lange: “We intend to continue developing our design to facilitate lower cost and high volume manufacturing, though our main emphasis at the moment is on scalable production processes. Since sustainability is a key concern, we’re also looking at recycling solutions. Our aim here is to reuse fibres in new wheels and to explore more sustainable resin solutions with high bio-resin content.”

This interview has been published in the JEC Composites Magazine N°149.

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