Boeing and BMW to team up on carbon fibre recycling

13 Dec 2012

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

German automaker BMW and US aircraft giant Boeing have forged a deal that will see the two companies pooling their resources in order to research new ways of recycling carbon fibre to reclaim and reuse it in future planes and electric cars.

Due to its low density and high mass, carbon fibre is regarded as being a material of the future for the aerospace and automobile industry for its potential to help develop low-carbon transportation.

At the minute both Boeing and BMW are pioneering the use of carbon fibre in their products. Boeing, for instance, claims that its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft is made up of 50pc carbon fibre. BMW, meanwhile, is planning to bring two electric cars to market – the BMW i3 hatchback and BMW i8 sports car – that will feature passenger compartment made from carbon fibre.

As part of their collaboration Boeing and BMW will share carbon fibre manufacturing process simulations and ideas for manufacturing automation.

BMW said that its carbon fibre plant in Moses Lake, Washington, will supply the carbon fibre parts for its i3 and i8 models. The BMW i3 is due to be released in late 2013, followed by the BMW i8.

In a statement, Larry Schneider, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ vice-president of product development, said that the collaboration was an important step in developing the use and end use of carbon fibre materials.

“It is especially important that we plan for the end of life of products made from carbon fibre.  We want to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products,” he said.

Herbert Diess, a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, spoke about Boeing’s experience of using carbon fibre in the field of aviation and BMW’s use of special manufacturing methods for the production of carbon fiber parts.

“Through this cooperation, we can merge know-how between our industries in the field of sustainable production solutions,” he said.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic