A New Carbon Fiber Deal Revolutionizes the World of Manufacturing
World renowned cyclist and the pioneer of carbon fiber bicycles, Greg Lemond is nothing short of a sports legend. He won the Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycling race three times in a row first in 1986, then in 1989 and 1990 respectively. He started his own range of heavy-duty but extremely light-weighted bicycles through employing carbon fiber technology. An innovator, a sports legend and a businessman running Lemond Composites, Greg Lemond is the perfect man to strike a carbon fiber deal with.
The $44 Million Deal
Lemond Composites in partnership with Deakin University in Australia recently signed a US $44 million deal to develop a carbon fiber manufacturing plant. Lemond Composites is already a top solution provider of high-volume, low-cost carbon fiber in the United States. Now, the partnership with Australia will ensure that the material is mass produced at a global scale for industries worldwide to use at a low cost. Although carbon fiber has been used in multiple industries, it has been an upscale product that is costly to acquire. However, with this deal, the participants are eager to bring a dynamic revolution to the world of manufacturing.
The Carbon Nexus facility was established in 2014 with an aim of developing technology that could manufacture carbon fiber at low costs. The facility received support from all levels of the government and from the Deakin University.
The technology for carbon fiber manufacturing was developed by Carbon Nexus Ph.D. student Maxime Maghe and Carbon Nexus GM Steve Atkiss. The duo was able to set up a technology that could reduce the energy of CF production by 75% and also make it cost-effective. The production process time which was initially at 80 minutes is now reduced to under 15 minutes thanks to the new technology.
The partnership with the university allows Lemond Composites to license the new technology making it easy to manufacture carbon fiber both in the US and Australia. Both countries being the hub of industrial and manufactural innovations, the deal will expand to new markets.
Speaking of the impact of the technology, Professor Jane Den Hollander, VC of Deakin University shares her excitement, ‘We know carbon fibre has been in use in aircraft, high-end cars, and bikes, among other applications, for a long time now, but it remains a niche product that costs a significant amount to produce. This new technology could revolutionize the advanced manufacturing sector locally, across Australia and around the globe, because it will make carbon fiber more affordable to produce, which will make it more accessible for consumers. This is a huge global success story and it was incubated in our Geelong Future Economy Precinct by one of our very own future leaders – a Ph.D. student working under the guidance of our gifted leadership in carbon fiber research.”
Talking about the technology itself, Derek Buckmaster, Director of Carbon Nexus says, ‘Maxime Maghe and Steve Atkiss made a breakthrough discovery when they identified the significant factors controlling the reactions, allowing them to optimize the chemistry and accelerate the production process. Optimized equipment designs based on the new process have also resulted in a significantly smaller footprint for future carbon fiber production lines. The smaller ‘fibre reactor’ equipment consumes significantly less energy than standard oxidation ovens and offers the potential to reduce capital costs and labor costs for carbon fiber production.”
With this partnership, both Lemond Composites and the University look forward to increasing the mass supply of carbon fiber while cutting back on costs.
Uses of Carbon Fiber
Carbon fiber was first known to be used by none other than Thomas Edison as filaments for early light bulbs. As decades went by, these thin filaments measuring a tenth of the human hair became known for its greater tensile strength, being stronger than steel, it’s high stiffness, high chemical resistance, low weight and low thermal expansion. It has a high resistance to stretching which makes it an ideal component for manufacturing of aircraft, sports gears, military vehicles, motor sports and other similar industries. However, they are the most expensive fibers and up until recently has been consumed in mass amounts by the United States and Japan.
Carbon fiber is the most important component in the aircraft industry as opposed to metal, it is stronger and yet lighter which makes it ideal for airplanes. Helicopters, fighter jets, all enjoy the benefits of carbon fiber as it plays its part in enhancing flight range and reducing maintenance. The second industry to benefit most from carbon fibers is sports gear manufacturers. It is important for sports gears to be light yet strong and durable. Imagine having to ride a heavy, metal bike! Troublesome, difficult to ride and costly to maintain would be the common dilemmas.
With carbon fibers, sporting gears like shoes, bikes, ice hockey sticks, golf clubs are easily manufactured, used and maintained. It helps stiffen running shoes to saving lives in motor racing circuits as they are used in the manufacturing of helmets and protective gears. Of course, the military cannot be left out when it taking full advantage of carbon fibers. Because it is strong and light-weighted, it is often used in the manufacturing of drones, surveillance objects, and other military products. The list of uses goes on; from home applications to medical applications, from the automobile industry to environmental applications – you name it. It seems to be the only component that can beat metal, steel and other elements that are strong but are extremely heavy-weight and difficult to maintain.
Carbon fiber with its light weight, absorbent nature, damage tolerance nature, inelasticity etc makes it the ideal element to be used by hundreds of industries worldwide. With this new technology, this exotic element can be mass-produced and can have a dramatic impact on the products we will use for the future.