Behind the innovations: Composites ATE

Interview with Daniel Claret Virós CEO - ATE Barcelona Site

AMM – What was the motivation to start developing the Cupra Member Box product?

Daniel Claret – We set out to develop a production technology that would allow us to produce carbon fibre parts with an aesthetic finish, adaptable to high production runs. We wanted to maintain the maximum aesthetic criteria of traditional low-volume projects with exposed fibre, and also at a reduced production cost, so that we could maintain production in Spain.

The Member Box product is the demonstration of the success of the strategy defined by ATE.

AMM – Can you tell us about the product development process, any anecdotes or obstacles that got in the way?

D. Claret – The product has been developed following the usual practices in the automotive sector (APQP, etc.). We had to pass the VW group homologation tests for car interior parts and we also had to adapt our entire quality management system to the sector’s standards (IATF16949).

It was the first time in the history of the VW Group that a supplier has supplied such a large number of carbon fibre parts (currently more than 3,000 Member boxes per week). This has been the biggest challenge: a company with no experience in serial production in the automotive sector, with a partly handcrafted production system, which has to meet the highest industry standards and with a very high production volume.

AMM – What is the technology behind this innovation?

D. Claret – The core technology is Prepreg Compression Moulding (PCM), i.e. the processing of carbon/epoxy parts by press compression moulding.

We combine this with automation of some key processes, including the use of machine vision and collaborative robotics. In other words, we design each stage of the production process with the aim of being able to manufacture the required parts at the lowest possible cost.

AMM- What are the main advantages of this innovative product, what needs does it cover and how can it improve the life of companies?

D. Claret – This technology allows us to produce premium carbon fibre products in medium or high volume, at a contained cost and Made in Spain. It opens the door for companies/products that until now considered the use of carbon fibre to be prohibitively expensive, to now consider it as an alternative.

The specific advantages that we provide are:

  • It allows mass production (unlike traditional technologies).
  • We maintain the high technical and aesthetic requirements of the sectors we are targeting (high-end automotive, for example).
  • Reduction of investment in moulds for our customers by more than 50%, thanks to a higher rotation of moulds.
  • Drastic reduction in energy consumption (>90%) compared to traditional technologies.
  • Complete elimination of auxiliary plastic materials during the manufacturing process as there is no need for vacuum bags.
    25-30% lower production cost compared to traditional technologies
  • Allows the production of aesthetically finished parts (visible fibre), thus suitable for high value-added parts.
  • High fibre content, therefore also suitable for structural applications.

AMM: Which industries is the innovation mainly aimed at?

D.Claret – This innovation is aimed at any application that seeks the added value of visible carbon fibre in its part, in addition to the already known properties of high resistance, absence of corrosion, etc. Thus, our commercial objective is to extend its use to new decorative applications in the automotive industry, sports accessories, elements for the nautical sector, personal protection, etc.

AMM – What are the main obstacles faced by a company that wants to develop an innovative product?

D. Claret – The main difficulty lies in coordinating the timing between the needs of potential customers and the development times of the innovation. The fact of being ready when that customer need arises.

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