By Mike Davey
Knoxville, Tennessee -- October 24, 2016 -- Carbon fibre and other composites are still largely used by high-end manufacturers, but the company that practically defined "mass market" in the automotive world seems to have its eyes on the materials. Ford has recently joined the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) as a charter member. IACMI is driven by the University of Tennessee and the US Department of Energy with a mandate of increasing production capacity and manufacturing jobs in the domestic composites industry.
According to a statement from IACMI, Ford’s Letter of Intent includes a $5 million commitment over five years. This level of investment qualifies Ford as a Charter Member of the Institute. Patrick Blanchard, Ford’s Technical Leader for Composites, will join IACMI’s Board of Directors.
“In line with our sustainability strategy, our goal is to work with the entire vehicle supply chain to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions through the use of advanced composites,” said Blanchard.
Ford is not the first OEM to fund IACMI, but it is the first to commit to an investment at this level. Volkswagen and Hyundai are also members, but at the $1 million “premium” level.
The OEM has also announced it will use the new Ford GT supercar as a low-volume test bed for work with composites such as carbon fibre. The use of composites is expected to cut the weight of parts by as much as 60 percent compared to steel.
“Ford has a proven track record for success in recent automotive advancements—by implementing lightweight materials such as carbon fibre and aluminum to reduce vehicle weight,” said Craig Blue, IACMI CEO. “We are proud to partner with a global, forward-thinking innovator to continue an impactful trajectory in the automotive and manufacturing industry.”