Germany's BMW AG and Boeing Co. have agreed to work together to tackle the challenges of carbon fiber manufacturing and recycling.
Both BMW and Boeing are using carbon fiber increasingly in new products. BMW's i3 and i8 electric cars will have carbon passenger cells, while carbon fiber constitutes half of the materials in Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
Both companies are seeking better ways to recycle the lightweight, but extremely hard material. It's difficult and requires a great deal of energy now to separate the fibers from the resin.
"Boeing for us is a suitable partner," said Herbert Diess, BMW's head of development. "Boeing has many years of extensive experience using carbon fiber in the field of aviation, while the BMW Group has earned a significant competitive advantage through its use of special manufacturing methods for series production of carbon fiber parts."
Larry Schneider, vice president of product development for Boeing's commercial airplanes business, said one of the biggest issues now was figuring out what to do with the left-over materials. "We want to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products," he said.
BMW has a joint venture with SGL Group, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, operating a state-of-the-art plant in Moses Lake, Wash., that makes carbon fibers for the BMW i3 and i8 cars.