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Boeing, BMW to Partner on Carbon Fiber Recycling

US aircraft giant Boeing and German automaker BMW Group have agreed to work together to research carbon fiber recycling and share information about carbon fiber materials and manufacturing.

The companies will share carbon fiber manufacturing process simulations and ideas for manufacturing automation.

Boeing and BMW are both using carbon fiber, which is lighter than aluminum and steel, in their products. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is made up of 50 percent carbon fiber material and BMW will introduce two vehicles with passenger compartments made of carbon fiber in 2013.

The lightweight material, which can reduce the weight of a vehicle and lower emissions and fuel consumption, is difficult to recycle, reported the Wall Street Journal. That challenge has prevented widespread production of carbon fiber car bodies.

Recycling composite material at point of use and the end of product life is critical to both companies, BMW and Boeing said. Boeing wants to look at ways to reclaim and reuse those materials to make new products, said Larry Schneider, commercial airplanes vice president of product development.

BMW also has a joint venture with SGL Group to make carbon fiber components for its cars. As part of their venture, SGL and BMW opened a manufacturing plant in Moses Lake, Washington that will provide carbon fiber parts for the 2013 i3 and i8 models.

BMW isn’t the only automaker to form partnerships in an effort to improve the use of carbon fiber and other advanced materials. Ford Motor Company is working with Dow Automotive Systems to research the use of advanced carbon fiber composites to reduce the weight of high-volume vehicles.

Ford is aiming to cut the weight of new cars and trucks by up to 750 pounds by the end of the decade, as a key component in its its strategy to improve fuel efficiency. In October, Ford demonstrated a prototype carbon fiber hood that the automaker says could help lower fuel consumption.

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