ACOMPLICE is examining thermoset composites, said Arnold:
To overcome cost problems, we're looking at reducing cure cycles by processing standard resins so they cure faster. We're also looking at fiber alignment and alternative methods to speed up production, so there's less manual labor required to produce components. We're considering different fiber formats, although obviously we want to maintain fiber alignment to keep the mechanical properties of the material. And we're looking at alternative ways of processing the newly developed fiber formats to reduce the time required to laminate materials.
The consortium views body-in-white and other structural components as the prime candidates for achieving weight savings, aside from the powertrain. It will take advantage of a previous Umeco project, ARMATURE, which aimed at simulating human lamination actions with robotics. Arnold said:
We want to expand on that technology by furthering the IP from ARMATURE so it can maximize what robotics offers, combined with resin formulations and materials development. Robotics will be used largely to increase the rate at which composite parts can be produced. They also facilitate the pre-forming routes, such as ply stacking and orientation. We may look at methods for positioning plies more accurately than humans can, and at high rates.
Other areas with room for improvement include standards and software. Particularly in resins, but even in fibers, there's no industry standard, said Baron. "Purchasing has no established spec to be met. So standards need to be developed. Another need for standards is in testing products."
Most companies building mainstream, high-volume cars use CAD, CAM, and CAE tools designed for simulating the behavior of metal and plastic components. It's a challenge now for them to design for composite manufacturability and to shift to a new generation of composites software and processes.
Car manufacturers want to learn from aerospace carbon composites, "so we leverage some of that industry's techniques for virtual design and testing," said Richardson. The main challenges in using composite simulation tools designed for aerospace in mainstream automotive applications is the potentially different geometries and material selections. To make the manufacturing process easier and more turnkey, the tools used in each industry need to continue getting smarter and more efficient. "For instance, the aerospace and automotive industries are working on automating some of the most tedious tasks in composite production, such as hand lay-up, with tools like laser projectors that can assist with those tasks," she said.
I read with interest the threads on CF –I am involved with many companies worldwide regards CF composites and what I am seeing is new CF material formats combined with new and modified process and polymers that are opening up a significant potential for auto applications. Aluminium's, steels, titanium and magnesium will never compete with a material format that can be moulded with variable thicknesses – strategic laminate direction and can be combined with many other materials. You will see a greater use of glass CF hybrids in the future. Regarding recycling – with the greater acceptance of TP polymers and their increase performance the recycling issue goes away!! so yes the use of CF is inevitable !!
Archie, I think the fascination with carbon fibers is the environmental factor. However, the steel folks argue that the front end of the carbon fiber process eats up considerable energy -- plus, they argue that steel is very easy to recycle.
Why the fascination of carbon fibres. The same techniques can be used with glass fibres which are cheaper. This can create as light structures which are, admittedly, less stiff but no less strong. The main importance is correct fibre orientation and high fibre density, i.e. squeezing out the resin. The same techniques can be applied to glass as carbon.
The high fibre density is cheaper in materials, lighter and less brittle.
Rapid curing is generally a result of using an appropriate resin - plus the use of heat. The advantage of applying heat is that a slower mix can be used but rapid curing applied once the shell or component is fully laid up. The safest method would be to use hot water. Possibly a water jacket could be applied using the water to squeeze the shells to get high compaction and then the cold water could be run out and hot water inserted to accelerate the cure.
@Ann: Titanium is not expected to play a big role in automotive lightweighting, but magnesium is. The Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Program forecasts that magnesium will make up 12% of a vehicle's weight by 2035 (compared to <1% today). They have been doing a lot of work on magnesium casting techniques. This would make a good topic for a future article.
This seems like an interesting element in the "lightweighting" game. As ratkinsonjr points out, sometimes a process development is needed before materials become cost effective. Who knows, perhaps converting automatic knitting machines to make cloth "shapes" for the automotive industry is the sort of cross-pollination of technologies that could make carbon fiber cost effective as a solution. Glad to see a consortium working on this. Thanks for the story.
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