How might Covid affect the use of composites in auto applications? Reinforced Plastics spoke to Eric Haiss, global director of automotive business development at global thermoset specialist IDI Composites about the history of the company and the way forward.

IDI Composites International (IDI), headquartered in Noblesville, IN, USA, makes thermoset molding compounds for molders and OEMs and recently developed a new line of structural thermoset composites in sheet and bulk formats for a range of markets such as military and aerospace, transportation, safety, medical, electrical, oil and gas, alternative energy, and marine.

The company, which owns manufacturing facilities in North America, Puerto Rico, the UK, France, China and Mexico, recently increased its focus on the automotive industry, and in particular the electric vehicle (EV) and new energy vehicles (NEV) businesses. The market for EV and NEV vehicles is growing exponentially, with sales expected to double in 2020, reaching four million new cars globally, according to IDI.

In March 2020, the company developed a new flame-resistant lightweight plastic composite for EV battery packs. (Figure 1.) According to IDI, Flamevex can be used to make battery packs that have passed the stringent Chinese Standard GB/T 31467.3 test, commonly known as the China bonfire test.

While steel has long been a preferred material for this type of application, the heavy weight makes it a poor choice, says IDI. While aluminum and carbon fiber provide more lightweight options, these technologies are still in development, making them inherently risky and costly, according to Yves Longueville, general manager for IDI in Shanghai, China. ‘Thermoset composites represent an ideal replacement for metals in these kinds of battery enclosures,’ said Longueville. ‘Thermoset materials can be formed into complex shapes and they are also strong and lightweight.’

In September 2020, the company appointed Eric Haiss (Figure 2.) as its new global director of automotive business development. He comes to the company with more than 20 years of experience in the automotive industry and 11 years’ involvement in the promotion and adoption of composite materials for automotive applications. For example, he spearheaded the conceptual development and launch of General Motors’ CarbonPro pick-up box for its Sierra truck.

This article appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Reinforced Plastics. Log in to your free to access the article.

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