When it comes to integrating innovative and future-proof technologies into their applications, businesses today come across various challenges in balancing costs and performance. To this end, they require both adapted development methods and tailor-made benchmarking systems. That’s where composite materials take center stage. Organizations can benefit from composites when the market is thriving, and the demand continues to grow. However, since the market takes time to provide feedback, it is important to set the right course and develop the right technologies to ensure constant growth and a stable supply chain.

“Our aim is to expand the boundaries of this material class and subsequently, open new and innovative application possibilities,” says Mr. Erich Fries, Director, Global Business Development. “We support our customers in establishing new and innovative technologies for their applications and thus guarantee the necessary progress to be able to cope with current and future challenges accordingly.”

The company’s lightweight solutions are engineered to meet the requirements of the automotive, aerospace, and railway industries. By managing its product portfolio from two dimensions, volume and function, HRC Group can offer customers the entire production scale, from small series to mass production.

In the last two years, the company has developed a carbon fiber body side assembly composed of 25 carbon fiber parts, 40% lighter than previous one in metal design. HRC completed the technical research and achieved a breakthrough of precision control and manufacturing process consistency of large-scale carbon fiber parts, using various production control means. The A-pillar lower inner panel of the assembly is manufactured in the HP-RTM process. HRC was responsible for the design and development of HP-RTM tooling and has completed the process development and commissioning.

For NEV, to achieve high values of >180Wh/kg, innovative lightweight solutions of the entire battery system are necessary. One of them is locally reinforced Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) as a resource and cost-efficient process for the manufacturing of battery housings. The process combines the high mechanical performance of unidirectional carbon fiber (CF) prepreg material in areas where needed and the design freedom of SMC (CF or GF) as a compression molding material.

Mr. Fries mentions that their customers have a demand for reliable material data of different composite materials to learn more about its advantages like high-strength and stiffness, lightweight potential, and corrosion resistance to validate potential applications in their vehicle concepts. That’s why HRC Group has been able to successfully implement a wide range of mass production parts including housings, exterior and structural parts.

Our aim is to expand the boundaries of this material class and subsequently, open new and innovative application possibilities

“Based on the requirements of each individual application, we have technologies that can meet the demands of lower production cycle time and lower unit costs,” states Mr. Fries. Furthermore, customers benefit from the improvement of the product LCA due to HRC Group’s holistic and sustainable approaches.

One of the key benefits of HRC Group’s strategy is its outstanding international network and cooperation with leading players in the composites market, like the strategic partnership with Fraunhofer ICT in Germany. This helps them further develop and grow advanced technology and talent pool. “We keep constantly moving forward through close contact with our customers and partners. We have understood and met their expectations and requirements over the past few years and are continuously adapting our development and manufacturing capabilities,” says Mr. Fries. With its positioning as a full-solution provider for lightweight composite solutions, HRC Group is serving the entire value chain from engineering, R&D, and production of composite components, specifically, carbon fiber mass production technologies.

Recently, HRC Group opened the Advanced Composite Technology Center (ACTC)—which is the largest open R&D platform in China—in cooperation with Fraunhofer ICT, as the leading institute for polymer engineering and composites technologies within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft—which is the world’s leading applied research organization. “We are thus following the trend and the need to develop and implement strategies for the development and integration of clean energy supply chains as well as sustainable and resource-efficient mobility solutions. Development topics in the field of hydrogen or wind energy are two examples in this area,” states Mr. Fries. In addition to the wide range of thermosetting composites technologies, ACTC is well prepared to enter the thermoplastic composite processing market. It could be very promising in the future as it offers more flexibility in part design, shorter cycle times due to a high level of automation, as well as established recycling strategies.

Regarding hydrogen storage for stationary and mobility applications, ACTC will be equipped with new winding technology to produce carbon fiber Type IV pressure vessels in mid-2021 and to run R&D for material, process, and concept development to establish this technology in the market. “Clean energy is changing the world every minute. It is incubating new business models while requiring a new pattern of resource allocation around the world. After all, we need to get ready to change when the moment comes anytime anywhere,” concludes Mr. Fries.