Nissan says that it has devised a new process that cuts development time for carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components that will make them easier to mass produce for use in vehicles.

As well as being utilised for lightweight applications (especially useful when weight is at a premium – eg in electric vehicles) the material can also be used to lower a car’s centre of gravity when applied to upper body parts, impacting driving dynamics.

Nissan aims to use the new process to mass-produce CFRP parts and introduce them in more cars for customers. The innovation can cut the lead time to develop such components by as much as half, and cycle time for moulding by about 80%, compared with conventional methods.

While the benefits of carbon fibre have long been known, Nissan acknowledges it’s expensive compared with other materials such as steel. Along with the difficulty in shaping CFRP parts, this has hampered the mass production of automotive components made from the material.

Nissan claims to have found a new approach to the existing production method known as ‘compression resin transfer moulding’. The existing method involves forming carbon fibre into the right shape and setting it in a die with a slight gap between the upper die and the carbon fibres. Resin is then injected into the fibre and left to harden.

Nissan’s engineers developed techniques to accurately simulate the permeability of the resin in carbon fibre, while visualizing resin flow behaviour in a die using an in-die temperature sensor and a transparent die. The result of the successful simulation was a high-quality component with shorter development time, Nissan says.