Motorcycles

BMW claims it's developed a process for fast, cheap carbon composite chassis manufacture

BMW claims it's developed a pr...
The carbon frame from 2017's BMW HP4 Race - hopefully new production techniques will bring lots more of these lightweight carbon chassis components
The carbon frame from 2017's BMW HP4 Race - hopefully new production techniques will bring lots more of these lightweight carbon chassis components
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The carbon frame from 2017's BMW HP4 Race - hopefully new production techniques will bring lots more of these lightweight carbon chassis components
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The carbon frame from 2017's BMW HP4 Race - hopefully new production techniques will bring lots more of these lightweight carbon chassis components
Carbon rim for the 2017 BMW HP4 race
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Carbon rim for the 2017 BMW HP4 race
A carbon composite swingarm produced by BMW using fast and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. Looks like it could fit the G310 series bikes.
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A carbon composite swingarm produced by BMW using fast and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. Looks like it could fit the G310 series bikes.
Dr. Joachim Starke of BMW receives the JEC Innovation Award on behalf of the team.
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Dr. Joachim Starke of BMW receives the JEC Innovation Award on behalf of the team.

If there's one thing motorcyclists want more of in their lives, it's carbon fiber. Such is our fascination with the lightness of carbon that people will unironically bolt non-functional bits of it onto their bikes in order to make them look lighter.

More's the better if we can get stuff that actually does make things lighter, like carbon bodywork or full carbon frames like those on the BMW HP4 Race and the Ducati 1299 Superleggera.

Best of all, though, is when judicious use of carbon can give us lightweight components where it counts most: south of the suspension springs. Carbon fiber rims, brakes and swingarms make a huge difference to unsprung weight, helping suspension react quicker and improving a motorcycle's handling to a degree even a novice can notice and benefit from.

Carbon rim for the 2017 BMW HP4 race
Carbon rim for the 2017 BMW HP4 race

And that's why this is such a good news story. BMW has just taken out the 2018 JEC Innovation Award in the Leisure and Sports category, for the carbon fiber swingarm it built for the HP4 Race in 2017. And the company has used that win to announce that it has already got another swingarm done up in carbon composites (CFP), which it has been able to manufacture cheaply using a "cost-efficient manufacturing process."

Dr. Joachim Starke of BMW receives the JEC Innovation Award on behalf of the team.
Dr. Joachim Starke of BMW receives the JEC Innovation Award on behalf of the team.

Project manager Elmar Jäger describes how the BMW process uses different types of composites in areas of high and low stress: "Our production technique uses CFP in the form of high-strength endless fibers where this is required by the stress pattern, while an injection mould part with short CFP recycling fibers is used where the stress levels are not as high. In this way, we developed a cost-efficient design that can be scaled according to requirements by inserting endless fibers with varying levels of strength in the same tool. These were the points that impressed the international jury. The insights we gained from this motorcycle component are equally valuable from the point of view of car development and can be applied accordingly."

The new technique puts all kinds of structural parts on the menu in lightweight carbon composites, and BMW claims components can be made with a single tool in under a minute, then strengthened with additional CFP panels if necessary, or thermoplastically joined using welding robots.

A carbon composite swingarm produced by BMW using fast and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. Looks like it could fit the G310 series bikes.
A carbon composite swingarm produced by BMW using fast and cost-effective manufacturing techniques. Looks like it could fit the G310 series bikes.

The second swingarm presented is small and thin, with a central monoshock. It looks like it could fit something out of the G310 series, but there's no talk of it appearing as an aftermarket part any time soon.

Still, with a quick, cheap pathway to lightweight carbon composite components that involves reliable, high-throughput production technologies, BMW looks like it's well placed to start bloodying noses in all sorts of categories. Structural carbon's allure is no joke in the showroom, or in a vehicle test. This could be a big deal.

Source: BMW

3 comments
Don Duncan
Why are reading about BMW's "big deal" possibilities? Why haven't they just done it, jumping ahead of their competitors with lighter new cars? A faster, stronger-built, better mileage car has long been awaited. Next, they can work on aerodynamics.
Martin Hone
Has anyone asked the EPA what it thinks of carbon fibre ? When involved in a crash and burn situation, it is reportedly as bad as asbestos for first responders. I found this out the hard way
nick101
Carbon fibre parts are super expensive so anything that makes them just expensive is worthwhile. Bring on the 200 kg sportbikes!