Metal replacement: composite cylinder housings for next generation engines

SBHPP High Performance Plastics, a business unit of Sumitomo Bakelite has predicted that the first cylinder housings manufactured from polymer composite materials will be introduced into passenger car and motorcycle engines by the year 2020, replacing the aluminium components currently in use.

SBHPP's research claims that injection moulded, glass fibre reinforced phenolic cylinder housings deliver the same performance as die cast aluminium components but offer a significant reduction in weight, lower engine noise and reduced heat radiation.

Compared with the aluminium part SBHPP say that the composite casing delivers a weight reduction of up to 20%, and manufacturing costs are approximately 10% lower for a production run of up to 30,000 parts per year.

Weight reduction is a primary objective for automotive manufacturers under increasing pressure to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. In addition, life cycle assessments demonstrate that the environmental impact of phenolic composite components over their entire lifetime is lower than that of aluminium alternatives.

"In three to five years' time composite cylinder housings will be a reality," said Hendrik De Keyser, marketing and technology officer at SBHPP. "We believe this composites technology will first be adopted in small engines of up to 1.6 litres. Implementation in higher performance and higher displacement engines will follow."

SBHPP plans to work with engine suppliers and automotive OEMs to take this concept to market. It also plans to develop a more complex multi-cylinder composite-based engine, with the ultimate aim of introducing an all-composite primary engine for use in passenger cars or motorcycles or as a range extender for electric vehicles.

Tom Austin-Morgan

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