Could Natural Fibers be the Future of Automotive Manufacturing?
Up to 20% of the impact a vehicle has on the environment can be linked to the manufacturing process.
With growing concerns for the planet, the car manufacturing industry is preparing to do its part by using greener technologies. These include the use of carbon fiber cloth and other natural fibers.
In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into this subject. Keep reading to find out more about how natural fibers are already being used and how they may be the future of the auto industry.
Natural Fiber Vs Synthetic Fibers
Before we get into details about natural fiber, we first need to know what are natural fibers and how they compare to synthetic fibers.
Simply put, natural fibers are any material obtained from plants or animals. Some examples of natural fiber are wool, silk, and jute which are mostly used in the textile industry at this time.
Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are man-made through various chemical and mechanic process. polyester, nylon, and spandex are all examples of synthetic fibers currently used in the textile industry.
As you’ll see in the next section, there are a number of benefits to including natural fibers when creating composite materials.
Advantages of Natural Fibers in Composites
Composite materials are any products that use a combination of different materials to create something new. In most cases, these are used to use the strengths of one material to overcome the weaknesses of the other.
One type of composite that’s becoming more popular is the combination of natural and synthetic fibers. When these are brought together, there are a few key advantages that we’re going to look at.
Low Cost of Production
Because natural fibers are often easier to produce than synthetic fibers, obtaining them is less expensive. This allows vehicle and parts manufacturers to save money during the production process.
These savings can then be passed onto consumers which can make a certain car more appealing to the general public. In turn, this can further drive sales. Thus, a lower cost is a big win for everyone involved.
Lower Environmental Impact
In most cases, the creation of natural fibers involves growing plants or animals. Both of these are sustainable forms of production and can help the environment.
Compared to the production of synthetic materials which is primarily harmful to the environment, this is one of the biggest advantages of using natural fibers. As everyone is being called to be more conscientious of their environmental impact, it’s important to consider this.
At the other end of a car’s life, there’s another environmental impact. Although some cars today are purposely 85% recyclable, that’s not the case with most vehicles.
When natural fibers are used in auto manufacturing, they increase the amount of a vehicle that can be recycled, lowering its impact on the environment at the end of its life.
Replaces Synthetic Polymer Functions
Synthetic polymers have long been used in the auto industry. Often used as adhesives or in packaging, the majority of these, unfortunately, end up in landfills.
What many people are not aware of is that flax and hemp are both natural fibers which can be used as alternatives to synthetic fibers that are used to reinforce plastics.
Lighter in Weight
Most vehicles have to be built with steel and other metal alloys for their strength. However, these also add a great deal of weight to a vehicle. The heavier a vehicle, the more gas it takes to keep it moving.
Natural fibers are naturally lightweight yet strong. Think of how tall a tree can grow even with a narrow trunk. This is because of the properties of natural fibers.
When these fibers are then combined with plastics to create a composite material, car parts can be made far lighter than if they were made with plastic alone.
Bamboo, hemp, jute, kenaf, and rice are all plants that have been used already in the manufacturing of car parts because of this property. It’s the perfect way to shed weight without sacrificing strength.
Improved Fuel Efficiency
When a car is made lighter thanks to the addition of natural fibers, it will have a lower gas mileage. This provides a huge advantage to consumers who are looking for ways to save money.
Did you know for every 100 additional pounds carried by a vehicle, the fuel efficiency can drop by 2%? When you can shave off a few hundred pounds through natural fibers, this can make a huge difference.
Less Foreign Reliance
The auto industry has long since been dependent on materials and parts that come from foreign soil. This can make things difficult in a constantly changing global political climate.
By relying more on natural fibers, we can use more locally- and nationally-produced materials. This helps to improve the American economy while limited our reliance on other countries to produce car parts for us.
Interior and Exterior Applications
You’re already aware of some of the interior applications of natural fibers in vehicles. Specifically, the use of leather seats.
But many of the exterior parts of a vehicle can also gain the advantages of using natural fibers as part of their composites. This includes the frame and other structural components.
Carbon Fiber Cloth in Cars
Let’s take a moment to focus on one of the best natural fibers in the auto industry.
Carbon fiber cloth is a flexible material when combined with other materials. It’s most commonly used with steel and aluminum car parts. The fiber cloth can be molded with these parts to reinforce and strengthen them.
Looking for a Green Option for Your Car Design?
Now you know that carbon fiber cloth and other natural fibers are the future of the car industry. These fibers hold many advantages over synthetic fibers, including creating stronger, lighter, and more environmentally-friendly car parts.
If you want to learn more about how these materials can help you, contact us today. We would be more than happy to let you know how we can help you meet your business goals.