The automotive industry is under pressure to take action. The European Union has ordered it to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of its fleets, while the dead weight of passenger cars is also to be cut. One way weight can be saved is with innovative interior door panels made of natural fiber composites such as those manufactured by Bcomp Ltd. in Fribourg. The company’s powerRibs technology is comparable to the veins of plant leaves, but is based on flax fibers, which are used in the form of lattice-like ribs to reinforce thin-walled structures. This allows surfaces without actual core material to be significantly stiffened. It also notably improves damping properties.
Natural fibers and their outstanding properties
Compared to conventional composite materials with glass or carbon fibers, the Bcomp application based on natural fibers offers further advantages: excellent mechanical properties, lower material consumption, lower total weight and lower costs. It also uses less water and produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions during cultivation. “We apply the latest findings on composites and lightweight construction based on natural fibers. This helps us to develop sustainable lightweight materials that surpass existing results,” says Bcomp CEO Christian Fischer.
“Good solutions cannot compromise present or future living standards.”
Bcomp is already working with the automotive industry players at various levels. Alongside manufacturers of interior and exterior linings, these also include world market leaders in research and development. Natural fiber products from Bcomp are also being tested in satellites by the European Space Agency.
Successful trip to Motorsport Valley
In order to deepen existing contacts and establish new ones, Bcomp CEO Christian Fischer joined a Fact Finding Mission to Britain’s Motorsport Valley at the end of 2018, a trip that was organized by S-GE in cooperation with the Swiss Business Hub UK. Motorsport Valley is topographically not a valley at all, but extends over a radius of 100 kilometers around the Silverstone Circuit, where the British Grand Prix is held. It is known as the most important development center for motorsports and eight of the ten leading Formula 1 racing teams are based there.
Innovation doesn’t stop at motorsports
The two-part Fact Finding Mission included visits to renowned companies, including Williams Advanced Engineering, and participation in the major RACE TECH World Motorsport Symposium in London. There, Bcomp was able to exhibit its products – and won the prize for the most innovative motorsport product of the year, which is highly regarded within the industry. Two months later Bcomp was also awarded the Autosport International Product Showcase Innovation Award. Christian Fischer: “The motorsport revolution is coming! This recognition at the highest level means a lot to us.” The awards also show how motorsport is prepared to reinvent itself, remain a leader in innovation, and attract new generations, Fischer goes on to say.
Bcomp was founded in 2011 by sports-mad engineers and materials specialists who had met during the construction of a new ski core. Since then, balsa wood from Bcomp has been successfully used in combination with natural fiber fabrics as a core material for skis, snowboards and water sports products. Flax fibers are also used in technical textiles, for example in products for the summer sports industry: surfboards, skateboards, wakeboards, kites and stand-up paddleboards, as well as in the construction of canoes, kayaks and small electric boats.