... one step closer to the showroom after Audi today joined with Perth company Quickstep to develop new carbon-fibre components. The key is a cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing process that will slash the current costs of making carbon-fibre car parts by 30 per cent.
Quickstep managing director, Philippe Odouard, said his company's Resin Spray Transfer (RST) technology and patented Quickstep Process - a method of rapidly curing resin without needing an autoclave - were centrepoints of the partnership with Audi and other organisations.
The partnership will work under the Presche Project in Germany that is headed by the German Government. Quickstep has, through the Australian Federal Government's Climate Ready Program, invested $1.2 million in this project and expects it to be completed by May next year.
"The launch of the Presche program in Germany represented an enormous opportunity for us to progress its RST technology in partnership with a high quality group of partners including Audi," Odouard says.
"The ability to rapidly manufacture and cure composite parts to A-Grade surface finish for the automotive industry without the need and expense of traditional autoclaves presents a significant opportunity for Quickstep.
"The ultimate goal is high volume, low cost composite component manufacturing so the industry can deliver lighter vehicles with reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions."
Odouard says the urgency to develop lightweight automotive materials is being driven by global legislative change.
This includes new regulations expected in the US by 2017 requiring all new cars to average 6.5 litres/100km. Quickstep in March completed the first proof-of-concept painted carbon-fibre flat panel to A-Class automotive standards using RST.
Odouard says the panels have "an exceptionally high quality finish for a rapid layup and curing process and exhibit material performance characteristics that are within or exceed automotive industry standards".
"The success of this program will position us to target a very significant medium term opportunity for composites in the car industry. "This has the potential to provide a very substantial second growth front for the company alongside our existing activities in the aerospace sector, where our major focus is on the imminent commencement of manufacturing of composite components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program."
The Presche project starts this month and will run in parallel with other Quickstep RST developments aimed to bring the technology to production.
In addition to Quickstep, the project consortium comprises Audi AG, Coriolis Composites GmbH, EDAG GmbH & Co. KG, the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology, project group integral light weight construction, and the University of Stuttgart, Institute of Aircraft Design.