Netherlands-based Donkervoort Automobielen says it is aiming to break into the Formula 1 grid in 2022 with its Ex-Core composite production process and says it has already attracted the attention of two teams. There has been particular interest in the ability of the process to produce parts with 0mm radii curves, well beyond what is available using traditional composite processes.
The process was originally developed for the automotive industry, aimed at delivering the lighter-weight components needed to offset heavy electric-vehicle batteries and absorb NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). However, the company says it has already piqued interest in the aviation, cycling, drone and sailing industries.
At the center of the process is a patented foam that expands at a fixed rate when heated, to provide internal pressure against the carbon-fiber mold. This means the composite materials and the resin are cured from the inside out, rather than the outside in, via computerized, low-energy heating elements built into the tooling.
The foam expands at a precise rate to squeeze the fiber layers onto the inner contours of the mold at between 2.8 and 8 bar. The foam then takes on some of the properties of the outer material, making it so much stronger than standard composites that it sets new industry standards. First used to produce the intricate doors of the 2017 Donkervoort D8 GTO-RS, it is a one-shot process with minimal waste, virtually no excess material and low energy consumption.
The company claims that the process delivers far more than the traditional strength and lightness of carbon fiber, with none of the disadvantages of traditional processes. For example, there are no expensive autoclaves needed, no consumables and it needs far less time and energy to create.
Research into the Ex-Core process began under Donkervoort’s research and development team 12 years ago. It has won multiple innovation grants, including a European innovation grant for high-tech materials and advanced manufacturing technologies.