August 2018

The democratization of carbon fiber

The word “premium” continues to define new markets for consumer brands in everything from cars to appliances. It's a term that is also heavily reliant on materials to bring these sensory and performance stories to life. After a long-standing foothold in industrial and aerospace applications, advanced composites are moving into high-end consumer facing products to create and reinforce the notion of “premium”.
Maezio™ thermoplastic composites from Covestro are used to house the air conditioning units of Chinese household appliances giant Haier.

Haier, a world-leading brand of major household appliances, has launched a state-of-the-art air conditioner under its Casarte brand, which utilizes Covestro’s continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) composites – trademarked Maezio™ – as the main housing material. These composites are made from ultrathin, unidirectional carbon fiber tapes laminated together at specific angles to form sheets that can be customized to specific performance and aesthetic criteria. For Haier design team, they provide a refreshing aesthetic compared to metal, in addition to advanced properties such as light weight and strength.

It serves as a perfect example of the continuous advancement of carbon fiber from industrial applications to high-end consumer products, says Chris Lefteri, founder of Chris Lefteri Design. “With its unidirectional carbon surface pattern, Maezio™ lends the air conditioner a totally new and premium visual language. On another sensory note it produces the sound of metal rather than plastic when knocked.”

For Daniel Liden, partner at Chris Lefteri Design, the possibilities offered by Maezio™ is immense. “Getting to know how this thermoplastic material can simplify the design process and bring completely new design opportunities to the table has changed my views on composites in high-volume manufacturing,” he says.

“I found the exploration of surface finishes particularly satisfying. There are just so many parameters to play with – from specifying the direction of the fibers and experimenting with in-mold textures to really simple things like changing the color of the resin or adding an embossed or debossed detail. I think it has broad appeal for applications across industries.”

“An exciting, authentic material that looks very organic” is Thorsten Frackenpohl’s first impression of Maezio™. In describing the sensory richness of the material, the managing partner of Cologne-based design studio Noto GmbH says, “It is unusual and novel. It has an appearance completely different from carbon-fiber reinforced plastics available up to now and that look gives the product a completely new optical direction.”

Thorsten is keen on bringing Maezio™ into furniture. Unlike classic carbon fiber processing that is very expensive, Maezio™ thermoplastic composites can be processed efficiently at scale. “That brings a promise of possibilities – the democratization of carbon fiber in high-volume manufacturing,” he says.

The demand for light, strong, and aesthetically powerful materials is growing worldwide, and composites play an important role. For that matter, Maezio™ is already attracting interest in such diverse segments as the electrical and electronics industry, the automotive business, household appliance and furniture, medical technology, sports goods, footwear and the luggage industry. Read on for more stories about how this thermoplastic composite material is bringing positive changes to major industries.

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