The material was actually developed to produce light-weight components that can withstand enormous forces thanks to ultra-thin, endlessly long carbon fibers and are nevertheless as easy to process as thermoplastic polymers. But unlike the now aged racing material, designers are already interested in the new look of Covestro’s new composites. After all, new materials that are both practical and “design-suitable” are in high demand – as the example of a brand-new air-conditioning system from the Casarte brand of the Chinese household appliances company Haier shows.
The Haier Group reports that it holds a large market share in the appliance sector and produces a very large number of air conditioning systems, washing machines, microwave ovens and refrigerators for demanding customers.
There is a simple reason why Casarte employees have focused mainly on metals and glass up to now. Their goal is a unique design that electrifies customers. In the fiercely contested appliance market, manufacturers must stand out from the crowd if they want to fascinate and retain customers. Good design always determines the success of a product, according to Qingru, but ugly things quickly disappear. It is not for nothing that Casarte employs around 300 product designers in twelve countries around the globe, who give their creations the most unique look possible. And steel, aluminum and glass attract attention.
Aesthetic material wanted
The catch: “It is not easy to find new materials that we can work with,” says Shao Qingru. In the meantime, she and her colleagues spend most of their time working on proven materials in such a way that they differ from the familiar appearance and help to give their products a new face. And to make them even more appealing for customers.
For example, in order to make aluminum suitable for use in living rooms, it requires some combination of finishing processes like sandblasting, brushing and anodizing. I.e. it is equipped with a more robust surface electrically before it can shine in the product. And this elaborate processes cost time and money.
A plastic is the better metal
The first new product in the Casarte product range, which is allowed to be encased in the new Covestro material, is an air-conditioning system: Two slender columns with a luxurious metal effect that does not require any metal at all thanks to CFRTP and an otherwise restrained, transparent paint finish: In their brilliant polycarbonate matrix, the endless carbon fibers of the new lightweight construction material, which lie parallel to each other, are reminiscent of brushed aluminum, even without the need for the time-consuming finishing process.
Even the sound fits: Anyone who knocks against the case will hear the typical metal-like “Dong”, which is another good reason for many designers to take a closer look at the material. “Sound is also part of our design language”, explains Qingru, “it contributes to the unique user experience. Customers want to touch, feel and hear the product. The metallic sound makes you feel like you have a stable and reliable product.”
The keyword “reliable” is much more than just that: Since CFRTP, thanks to established plastic production techniques such as compression molding, requires fewer processing steps from the raw material to the end product than, for example, aluminum or even traditional carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, which require several hours in post-processing, the CFRTP inventor in Leverkusen clearly expects that the overall part quality is reproducibly higher. The result: reject rates decrease because the material has to be processed less elaborately after demolding. This, of course – like the short cycle times of the forming process – is likely to have a positive effect on production costs.