Lightweight, sustainable composite supplier Bcomp says it is providing its natural fiber technologies to HWA, Mercedes-AMG’s development partner, for the new front bumpers on Mercedes’ GT4 race cars.
Set to be phased in over the coming weeks, the bodywork solutions will, the Swiss company says, provide a sustainable alternative to the GT4’s existing carbon-fiber panels, offering equivalent mechanical performance in stiffness and weight and improving safety.
The bumpers use Bcomp’s ampliTex and powerRibs technologies, which harness the natural advantages of flax fiber. The reinforcement grid relies on the high specific bending stiffness of flax to build up height very efficiently, boosting the flexural stiffness of thin-walled shell elements significantly.
A full sustainability analysis concluded that the new bumper offered a total material emission reduction of 90% when compared with the carbon-fiber part as well as an 85% reduction of CO2 emissions from cradle-to-gate, considering all production steps from raw material to final part.
Reverse engineered from HWA’s original design, the natural fiber bumper has been collaboratively optimized over the past 12 months. To ensure the bumper met all racing regulations and requirements, the HWA team performed extensive mechanical testing and validation. The stiffness of the complete front end of the Mercedes-AMG GT4 was measured, using a carbon-fiber bumper as benchmark and afterward with the new natural fiber bumper, validating that part performance was on a par with the old components.
Furthermore, part of the project was to validate the HWA in-house paint processes with ampliTex and powerRibs, optimizing the A-surface quality of the part up to a level that meets the quality standards of HWA and Mercedes-AMG motorsport. Production of the old carbon-fiber bumpers has now ceased, and all customer teams will receive the new Bcomp version with their next orders.
Anne Mink, manager of technical development at HWA, commented, “The topic of sustainability plays a major role in our company. Several awards for our efforts in the area of environmental protection are proof of this. Part of our sustainability concept is to evaluate and optimize the product lifecycle with regard to environmental aspects as early as in the product development stage. Furthermore, it is our aspiration to constantly adapt our long-standing engineering know-how to current environmental requirements in order to be able to offer our customers sustainable products at the highest technological level.
“In Bcomp, we have got a development partner with extensive experience in sustainable materials. The result of our cooperation shows that technologically equivalent components can be created from alternative materials.”