Kevlar carbon fibre texture on a car hood. Various vehicle details in Southern California.

Carbon Fibre Bodywork

Carbon fibre composite(commonly shorten to Carbon Fibre) was first introduced in the form that we now know today more than half a century ago, since then it’s been further refined, with new advancements and applications to the present day.

21/03/23

Carbon Fibre composite was firstly heavily utilised in the aerospace industry in its early development, by late 1970s, world-class car manufacturers and motorsport teams began to research into implementing carbon fibre composite in cars. In 1981, McLaren became the first team with a carbon fibre composite chassis, making a debut in the Formula One scene. What used to be an exclusive novelty is now a widely used choice of material, almost 85% of the volume of a typical F1 car is made up of carbon fibre composite!

Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics(CFRPs) tip the scales at roughly one-fifth the weight of steel and half the weight of aluminium, a major advantage in strength to weight ratio. When it comes to CFRPs in cars, there are 3 main areas in which carbon fibre is used in:

1. Structural Component
Just like the debut of carbon fibre in the McLaren F1 back in the 80s, CFRPs is often utilised in char chassis. It is an excellent material due to its rigidity and lightweight.
2. Bodywork
In the recent years, CFRPs is commonly used in the bodywork. With it being much stronger and stiffer than steel, whilst being lighter, it became an obvious choice to car makers to utilise CFRPs in bodywork.
3. Unsprung Mass
Manufacturers have also been increasingly turning to CFRPs when it comes to wheels and brake assemblies, in further lightweighting to minimise vehicle mass whilst improving performance.
4. Trims
Another widespread use of carbon fibre in cars is not for performance reasons, but for aesthetics. It’s now often seen within the interior: making up parts of the steering wheel, seats, wing mirrors, etc.

Kevlar carbon fibre texture on a car hood. Various vehicle details in Southern California.

With nearly all the supercar and hyper-car bodywork these days being made out of CFRPs, this does come with an inherent issue that needs addressing – heat. Although CFRPs are considered having high thermal performance amongst composites, when it comes to its utilization in cars, especially high-performance vehicles, it will suffer from structural damage as the temperatures generated in these cars are often at least 300-400°C. Depending on the binding resin used, carbon fibre reinforced polymers will deform when exposed up to around 150°C, causing loss of strength on top of the aesthetic damage.

The Solution

Super-car and hyper-car manufacturers utilize our ZircoFlex® ceramic heat shield solutions, which offer the highest performing heat shield by weight and thickness available on the market. Its patented characteristics make it a unique offering that meets the needs of CFRPs bodywork perfectly, with high thermal protection where the space envelope is minimal, and operating temperatures can exceed 600°C. Our flexible ceramic heat shield can be installed around bodywork. With our ZircoFlex® being easily shaped, cut and form into any geometries, it makes it the ideal solution for cars with complex body shapes. Our ZircoFlex® FOIL & GOLD solutions can offer up to 85% heat reduction, it’s also extremely thin and lightweight at only up to 1.5kg/m2, which is advantageous over the conventional, far heavier heat shielding alternatives used in cars, increasing performance and efficiency.

Contact us to learn more about our ZircoFlex® ceramic heat shield.