Get ready for a lot more Lamborghini Sesto Elementos.
Get ready to erase everything you think you know about the lightweight composites that make up the crucial components inside of supercars. It doesn't matter if you know all about the carbon tub Ferrari LaFerrari or if you buy carbon fiber license plate borders because weight savings. Either way, soon we may have an ever more outrageous breed of supercars thanks to Lamborghini's work with airplane manufacturer Boeing to find ways to mass produce forged carbon fiber.
First seen on the anorexic 2,200-pound Lamborghini Sesto Elemento, forged carbon fiber, or FC for short, is a breakthrough composite made by a manufacturing process that significantly cuts the time it takes to make carbon fiber components and yields a sturdier material than traditional carbon fiber weave. To make it, shredded carbon fiber threads are combined with resin and sandwiched between two steel molds. Then, the goop that will make a future supercar is heated and placed under 1,200-1,500 psi of pressure. Only three minutes later, the component is ready. This significantly undercuts the 24 hours it usually takes to bake layers of carbon fiber cloth separated with resin in an autoclave and also cuts production costs significantly.
To run further experiments using the material, Lamborghini has just inaugurated its new Advanced Composites Research Center in Seattle, Washington, which also happens to be the home of Boeing. There, it will refine production methods to the point where manufacturing speed is increased and cost of construction is reduced. If the material becomes cheap and easy enough to produce to be viable for mass production, we can easily see Lamborghini sharing the technology with its Volkswagen partners including VW, Audi, and Porsche. This could effectively trickle down to bring lightweight carbon fiber components to the everyday passenger car and change driving dynamics, as we know it.
The main barrier, according to Lamborghini board director in charge of R&D Maurizio Reggani, is that the resulting product of the alternative production method looks a lot more like marble instead of the classic and beautiful weave pattern that we see on today's supercars. Therefore, Lamborghini and future users of the material will need to figure out how to make FC appealing to the eye or to hide it from sight. This could come via marketing or clever production methods, but we trust Lamborghini's ability to make a car look great. Either way, Lamborghini's recent inauguration of the composites center gives us hope for a future filled with carbon fiber Ford Mustangs and Mazda MX-5 Miatas.