12th July 2016 by Richard Yen
In today’s look back at the 2015 Altair Enlighten Award, we’re going to review Continental Structural Plastics (CSP) entry which concerned the development of a new composite material called TCA Ultra Lite.
TCA Ultra Lite is an advanced composite material created using a patented treatment technology on the glass microspheres which allows the resin to adhere to the matrix and increase the interfacial strength between the bubble and the resin.
This process results in a more robust resin mix that makes molded parts more resistant to handling damage, and prevents the microcracks that cause paint pops, pits and blistering. When combined with CSP’s patented vacuum and bonding manufacturing processes results in a material with a premium Class A finish with paint and gloss qualities comparable to metals, including aluminium.
This resistance to cracks and defects was particularly important considering its use on the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette C7, a premium sports car that carries the expectation of high performance and quality finish. The TCA Ultra Lite composite structure forms most of the upper body of the vehicle and successfully achieved a weight savings of 20 lbs (9 kg) per vehicle.
CSP’s nomination reflected a common trend in the industry where traditional metallic parts are being replaced with composite alternatives, at least for high end sports cars which are less price sensitive. As the materials technology develops and price lowers, it will be interesting to see what role composites materials such as this will play in the mass market.
Download a PDF of this nomination here – Continental Structural Plastics