Boeing and BMW Join Forces for the Carbon Fiber Revolution
The ‘big whoop’ is that carbon fiber has been pegged as the future go-to material for manufacturing planes, cars, and pretty much everything else that currently uses aluminum or steel. That means boats, buildings, computers (a carbon-fiber ultrabook would be nice), smartphones — you name it.
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Carbon fiber is 30 percent lighter than aluminum and 50 percent lighter than steel. Boeing’s flagship airplane, the 787 Dreamliner, is 50 percent composite material by weight, making it 20 percent more fuel efficient than comparable models.
With nearly 35 percent of a carrier’s operating expense coming from fuel, this amounts to tremendous savings. Carriers around the world have scrambled for Dreamliners, with over 830 orders, valued over $180 billion, placed so far.
BMW already has a heavy hand in the carbon-fiber game with a facility in Washington. The plant, a joint venture with SGL Carbon, will help develop the carbon fiber that BMW wants to use in the passenger cells of its i3 and i8 vehicles. Carbon fiber will play an important — and perhaps critical — roll in increasing automotive fuel economy. The United States Energy Department pegs a 10 percent decrease in weight at a 6 to 8 percent increase in fuel economy…