The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, IACMI, in partnership with DuPont Performance Materials, Fibrtec Inc. and Purdue University, has launched the first project selected with a dual focus on decreasing the cost of manufacture and increasing design flexibility for automotive composites. Advancements in both areas can open up new opportunities and become an enabler for large-scale deployment of composite parts.
Multiple factors, including cost and design constraints, present barriers to the adoption of composites in high volume automotive applications. This new IACMI project will address both of these critical areas through a fundamentally different approach to the manufacturing of carbon fiber composites versus those currently in use today.
The work will build on synergies of differentiated technologies, including novel materials and processes that allow flexible pre-pregs (Fiberflex) combined with Rapid Fabric Formation (RFF) technology to provide customizable fiber orientations via thermal bonding to significantly improve cycle time, cost, and waste.
The final component will benefit from increased production speeds of the tow manufacturing process and the fabric forming process resulting in a lower cost of manufacture. The partners have estimated that use of emerging materials for impregnation and new approaches for tow coating and fabric formation will lower costs of high volume composites production by 20%.
Composite parts made by this process have been shown to have low voids and good mechanical properties when consolidated by traditional techniques. The flexible fabric prepregs have also been shown to have good draping behavior in molding experiments. Researchers in the Purdue University Composites Manufacturing and Simulation Center will work with the team to model and validate drapability and part performance.
High cycle time for production of continuous carbon fiber thermoplastic composites increases costs. The use of emerging materials for impregnation and new approaches for tow coating and fabric formation are expected to significantly lower production costs of high volume composites.
By leveraging the strengths of all project partners, we have the potential to create a unique commercially viable path to high volume, low cost thermoplastic composite automotive components.—Jan Sawgle, DuPont Performance Materials, Project Manager
The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), managed by the Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), is a partnership of industry, universities, national laboratories, and federal, state and local governments working together to accelerate development and commercial deployment of advanced composites. CCS is a not-for-profit organization established by The University of Tennessee Research Foundation. The national institute is supported by a $70-million commitment from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and more than $180 million committed from IACMI’s partners.