Mitsubishi Rayon Co., Ltd. (MRC) announced that its carbon fiber sheet molding compound (SMC) has been adopted for the rear door frame of the new Prius PHV, which Toyota Motor Corporation launched on February 15th.
In association with stricter fuel efficiency regulations and carbon dioxide emission controls, interest in vehicle weight reduction has been growing in the automotive market, and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) that combines lightweight with high strength is expected to find application in automotive components. Nevertheless, the application of CFRP has been limited to luxury cars that are produced in limited quantities because the production of CFRP-made components takes time and results in high costs. In recent years, however, advancements have been made in the development of materials and production methods for CFRP, and automakers are stepping up full-scale adoption of CFRP components for mass-produced vehicles as well.
The MRC-developed SMC is a type of intermediate material for CFRPs, and a sheet-shaped material in which carbon fibers cut into lengths of several centimeters are dispersed in resin. SMC can be processed into components in a short period of time, i.e. roughly 2 to 5 minutes, by press molding. In contrast to prepreg intermediate materials (uncut carbon fiber fabric impregnated with resin), SMC features high formability for molding complicated shaped parts. It also exhibits close-to-uniform mechanical properties, which allow engineers to readily use the carbon fiber material by utilizing existing parts design know-how and achieve lighter components with higher strength.
MRC’s SMC has been adopted for Toyota’s new Prius PHV because its advantages have earned high recognition from the automaker. These advantages include substantial reduction of the vehicle’s weight, the achievement of outstanding component performance, excellent formability that enables production of complicatedly shaped components, and productivity necessary for manufacturing components for mass-produced vehicles.
With this adoption as an impetus, MRC will actively and extensively promote the use of carbon fiber materials for automotive components.