ThyssenKrupp Carbon Components and Maxion Wheels are working together to develop a lightweight forged wheel that combines aluminum and carbon fiber composite material, which they will market jointly to the premium-vehicle market. The partners state that their combined expertise in materials and wheel manufacturing will result in “exceptional performance benefits at an attractive price point.”
According to their announcement, they have built and extensively tested prototype wheels for luxury cars and SUVs. Testing took place at certified Maxion Wheels labs.
Maxion is the world’s largest manufacturer of wheels, totaling 65 million units annually for passenger cars, light trucks, commercial trucks, and trailers. It also produces steel wheels for military, agricultural, and off-highway vehicles.
ThyssenKrupp Carbon Components develops high-performance industrial parts in carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics (CFRP.)
Specific details of the wheels’ design and production remain unknown, but their joint announcement indicated Maxion is supplying its liquid-forged aluminum discs for the manufacturing effort.
Liquid forging is a process in which aluminum billets are heated to a semi-solid state, and then formed under pressure with a custom-fitted mold and punch to establish the final shape as the billet cools. According to experts, the process produces dimensionally optimal parts with less material and minimal porosity, and requires minimal machining.
Maxion Wheels stated that its liquid forging technique achieves material properties that are comparable to standard forged aluminum wheels, at lower cost and with the design flexibility of cast wheels.
The two partners stated that their combined technologies would generate weight savings of up to 40% compared to forged aluminum wheels, with the opportunity for custom styling.
They committed to working with OEMs to develop customized automotive wheel products.
"With carbon fiber-aluminum hybrid wheels we offer a unique option to our customers in the luxury and sports car segment to differentiate themselves through technology and design,” according to Dr. Jens Werner, managing director at ThyssenKrupp Carbon Components, who described the cooperation agreement as a “milestone” in the development of carbon-fiber wheels.
“It shows the technological maturity we have reached and combines our innovations with the leading player in the wheel industry. Commercialization is the logical next step," according to Werner.
Together, ThyssenKrupp are Maxion Wheels are working with Volkswagen to test prototypes of their wheels on a vehicle. To date, public road testing has shown the wheels perform with “superior damping” compared to standard products, which helps to reduce vibration and road noise. Further product development will continue, they said.
"The aluminum/carbon-fiber hybrid wheels we develop through our cooperation with ThyssenKrupp will fill an important niche in the ultra-lightweight vehicle market," according to Kai Kronenberg, Maxion Wheels’ vice president of Business Development & Global Innovation at Maxion Wheels. "It will benefit our customers by expanding our already extensive range of products and capabilities, while enhancing our leadership position in the industry."