Is Bamboo in the Automotive Industry's Future? What You Might See After Your Auto Mechanic Apprenticeship
June 7, 2017
Bamboo—it’s not just for furniture and panda food. The question is, tough, could the same properties that make it so attractive for at-home uses—mainly its lightness and strength—also make it worthwhile in automobile construction?
It turns out, it’s quite possible that bamboo could become an important material within the automotive industry. Here’s a look at why automakers may start turning to bamboo, and what that could mean for both the industry and the cars we see produced.
After Your Auto Mechanic Certification, A Hybrid of Plastic & Bamboo Could Become Important
In cars, carbon fiber and plastic are the go-to materials for many components. Both materials are strong and light, offering good solutions for keeping a car’s weight down without sacrificing too much integrity. However, carbon fiber is expensive to produce, and though plastic is relatively good, it isn’t a top performer when it comes to strength.
This year, however, Ford announced that it was conducting research into a bamboo/plastic hybrid, which could offer exceptional strength at (hopefully) a lower cost than that of producing carbon fiber. Initial research seems to suggest that not only could it be a good replacement for existing materials, but it could outperform many other materials for strength, making it a potentially great option for use inside of cars. For that reason, it’s possible that you could see Ford using bamboo in its cars sometime after your auto mechanic apprenticeship and training.
Bamboo Could Also Be an Eco-Friendly Replacement for Some Carbon Fiber & Plastic Components
Unfortunately, neither plastic nor carbon fiber is environmentally friendly, and carbon fiber is relatively expensive to produce. Bamboo, on the other hand, is fully biodegradable, and grows quickly.
In other words, it could be an amazing, eco-friendly replacement for some applications where the absolute most strength is not required. For example, it could be appropriate for wiring, interior paneling, and more. If automakers can save a bit of money and make themselves look like eco warriors by switching some parts to bamboo, the odds are even better that you will see some of them start to do so not too long after your auto mechanic certification program.
Bamboo’s Downsides Mean It’s Not a Guaranteed Presence After Your Mechanic Certification
Though bamboo has much to offer automakers, it also has a pretty significant obstacle in the way of it being adopted by the automotive industry: it’s a plant, and can’t be grown in a uniform way.
Little nodes can be found along bamboo’s stalks, and removing these adds time to the process of getting bamboo processed for use—a problem, given that automotive applications would require a fairly large amount of the stuff. Compare this to plastic or carbon fiber pieces, which are made to specification every time, and it seems that bamboo may not be as good of a solution as one might hope.
Where there is an industrial will, however, there is often a way. If Ford decides that bamboo is the best material for the job, it would not be surprising for them to come out with some new, more effective method of preparing bamboo for use in its cars. Only time will tell if that will end up happening.
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