ApplicationsIf you are reading this blog post, you have likely seen this hinge technology applied to our wallets and portfolios. This is all fine and dandy, but could this super strong hinge be applied to a more fitting application? It certainly can! We have looked into many uses of our carbon fiber hinges over the past few years and have prototyped as many of them as we could afford. Of course, the list of ideas keeps growing but our free time keeps dwindling… Read on for an overview of future applications!
Continued Consumer GoodsWith our initial success in consumer goods, we can’t overlook the many simple applications of a carbon fiber hinge that still remain in this field. In an attempt to move towards more fitting applications of our hinge technology, we intend to expand into the realm of durable cases. The lowest hanging fruit that you can expect to see by the end of the year include phone cases, tablet cases, laptop cases, and camera bags. Each of these items plays a vital role in protecting valuable electronics. And with these electronics always weighing more than you want, it’s important to save every last bit of weight on the protective case. By utilizing the CF-LexTM hinge technology, these products remain light, while also providing complete 360 degree protection to the components inside. Of course we have a much larger list of other consumer goods, but we have to leave some of them as a surprise!
Extreme SportsThe extreme sports industry is ever-growing around the world. As the equipment becomes more advanced, the risks associated with these sports are reduced, which means more and more people are giving them a try! With our hinge technology, there are many uses within this world, ranging from protective equipment to modifications for easier transportation.
In terms of protective equipment, we imagine an exoskeleton suit that could be worn comfortably while participating in these sports. The rigid carbon fiber would protect the body from falls, while the flexible carbon fiber would allow the user to move with ease. This same idea can be applied to many sports ranging from skiing to dirt biking. These exoskeletons would be incredibly light and therefore unobtrusive to the user.
In addition to protecting extreme sport athletes, the hinge technology could be used to better the sports. Examples of this include lightening already existing heavy equipment as well adding additional usability to the equipment. The clearest example of this is using the hinge to make just about any extreme sport board (i.e. skateboard, snowboard, etc.) foldable so that it can be easily transported in a backpack and then deployed when ready. This specific application is already in the works, but we can’t tell you more just yet! Shhhh!
Mobility EquipmentAnother application for the CF-LexTM Hinge Technology is mobility equipment for handicapped and disabled people. This includes wheelchairs and wheelchair ramps. We actually took the wheel chair ramp on as a case study and created a 1:2 scaled model. This half scale prototype was 6.5 ft. long, weighed 5 lbs, and could hold a 150 lb person at a 20 degree incline. This can be compared to a similar metal ramp on the market that weighs 30 lbs. Considering the full scale prototype would weigh close to 10 lbs, this is a weight reduction of 20 lbs! Aside from being much lighter, the hinges also enabled us to fold the ramp up more compactly so that it could be carried and stored with ease. The picture below shows the wheelchair ramp folded up and ready to carry. We expect there to be large opportunity within this market as these products tend to be large and bulky.
Automotive and Aerospace IndustriesSince the beginning we have dreamed of our hinge technology being used in airplanes and cars. As the founders of CF all came from an automotive background, with an interest in automotive efficiency, we are certain we will make our way back to these industries in the future. Our hinge technology can be perfectly applied to both industries because they are constantly looking for ways to reduce weight and thereby save money. In fact, a 1% reduction in vehicle weight results in a 0.7 % increase in fuel economy for a typical car.
Obvious applications for cars include replacing door and trunk hinges. Clearly this wouldn’t work for existing car designs, but as they evolve and more composites are used, these hinges could be used to make seamless doors that perfectly match the car’s body. We have actually prototyped this on a concept car for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Supermileage team. This concept “car” had a top hatch that hinged open to allow the driver entry. A picture of this concept car is below.
The applications in the aerospace industry are also limitless. A huge focus of the industry is reducing the weight of airplanes as a 25 lb reduction in the weight of an airplane can actually save a half a million dollars in fuel each year. Those are big numbers! Of course there are plenty of hinges on a plane, not all of them could be replaced with carbon fiber hinges, but many could be. Thinking of just the galley of the plane, there are many long leaf hinges used on all of the compartments. This would be a simple switch.
Much more ambitions modifications would include wing flaps and control surfaces. Current planes are clearly far too advanced to simply replace their existing setup with a simple carbon fiber hinge, but we do see a future in which this could be completed. To test these theories we applied our hinges to a VTOL RC plane. The hinges acted as the control surfaces, as well as the pivot points for the motors. Despite it being a very oversimplified plane, it still clearly demonstrated the application of the technology in the aerospace field.
Don’t get us started here. There are just too many applications, ranging from armor to fold up shelters and beyond. Wish we could tell you more, but you know, hush hush!
Read on to Part 4: Advanced Manufacturing for our ideas on future manufacturing methods and applications.