Research on efficient integrated systems for the manufacturing of complex parts based on unidirectional tapes for the automotive and aeronautical
The strategic objective of FORTAPE is to research and develop an efficient and optimized integrated system for the manufacturing of complex parts based on unidirectional fibre tapes for its application in the automotive and aeronautical industry, with the minimum use of material and energy.
The technical objectives to accomplish this are the following ones:
Development of an efficient process for carbon fibre and glass fibre unidirectional tapes manufacturing with reduced material usage and defective production and increased mechanical performance. Three different options will be researched to develop the innovative process to manufacture UD carbon and glass fibre tapes with increased fibre content compared to the melt impregnation and with a cost reduction due to the suppression of the slitting of tapes.
Development of an innovative overmoulding technology to manufacture complex composite parts locally reinforced with single and bi-layer UD tapes, using a combination of process-machine approach, through injection-compression moulding (ICM) strategies, automated tape laying adapted to automotive cycle times, automated part manipulation and online process control to reduce deformations on final moulded parts due to the anisotropic nature of UD tapes.
Development of a novel in-situ consolidation technology to manufacture complex composite parts without the need of autoclave for secondary structure and interior cabin applications complying with fireproof regulations, using a combination of material-machine approach, through the development of a new high-temperature polyamide for secondary structure and a new polyamide with fire-resistance properties for interior cabin applications.
Development of novel modelling concepts to assess the geometry design of complex parts and to select the best strategy for the part manufacturing.
The impact objectives are linked to the technical objectives and they are the following ones:
1. Resource efficiency during composite complex parts manufacturing applied to the whole value chain and compared to current average values. 2. Elimination of at least 85% in faulty manufactured parts for automotive applications and within the aeronautics sector it is expected to keep performances in this sense (current average of 7% of faulty manufactured parts production rate).
FORTAPE will develop a sustainable an efficient technology for the manufacture of UD tapes and its implementation for the fabrication of complex parts for the automotive and aeronautic sector. Two type of parts are going to be used as a basis, one for the automotive sector and another one for the aeronautics. These parts are just given as an example, but the results of the project could be applied to many other objective parts.
Automotive door panel: although it does not have high-performance requirements, as it happens with a structural part, it is a complex part with many types of integrated functions and different requirements depending on the area.
Stiffening Window Frame: The In-Situ consolidation process will be adapted to work with UD carbon fibre tapes impregnated with low-cost PA resin.
Result in Brief
Making cars and planes lighter and cleaner using unidirectional fibre tapes
An EU initiative has developed a cost-effective way to produce unidirectional (UD) tape to manufacture and reinforce parts in cars and planes. The solution will make them lighter and more environmentally sound.
Automobiles are among the biggest culprits in generating greenhouse emissions, raising the costs for both the environment and manufacturers. One solution is to make vehicles lighter by using new materials such as UD fibre tapes. However, until now these tapes were costly and difficult to produce in sizeable quantities.
To address this issue, the EU-funded FORTAPE grouped 10 partners from 5 European countries covering the entire value chain. The broad range of stakeholders was needed in developing new integrated technologies with the most efficient use of materials and energy. This was done to adapt UD tapes for use in vehicles and aeroplanes.
UD tapes can be used to enhance the mechanical properties of a plastic part. They can also be used to manufacture structural parts, consolidating and thermoforming several layers.
Barriers to extensive use
But, this new high-performance material comes with some obstacles to widespread use in industry, says project coordinator Raquel Ledo Banobre. The main hurdles are high consumption of resources, lower rates of automation, high production of defective materials and the subsequent rise in manufacturing costs.
“In global terms, the industry needs to reduce vehicle weight in order to lessen greenhouse emissions and fulfil EU requirements using a cost-efficient solution,” she adds. “Despite their huge mechanical properties and lightweight potential, there were several issues that needed to be addressed to guarantee their extensive use in the industry.”
The project focused on three main axes: tapes manufacturing, part manufacturing, and the modelling of processes and parts. Three different technologies for fibre impregnation were researched to develop the innovative process in manufacturing UD carbon and glass fibre tapes with increased fibre content.
Drastically reducing price
FORTAPE was able to optimise the manufacturing process to produce 16 tapes at a time at the right width. This helped to considerably slash the tape price.
Another output was an automated method to use UD tapes as reinforcement for a window regulator. This will help to meet cycle times and production volume needs for the auto industry. A window frame manufacturing process using fireproof polyamide UD tapes was developed for the aeronautical sector.
Also developed was a comprehensive model of the UD tapes as reinforcement to predict the mechanical properties of the part and the injection moulding process. Both aspects are key to introducing new materials in the automotive sector.
The most significant achievement is energy and material savings. FORTAPE was able to beat all targets on material savings. The goal for aeronautics parts was originally set at 75% and reached nearly 92%. Similarly, the savings for automotive parts reached almost 57 % from 40 % initially. The project matched all but one target for energy savings. All EU requirements were fulfilled.
The technical and economic feasibility of the processes has been successfully demonstrated. To achieve industrial implementation, new adjustments and optimisations will be required. Banobre says the plan is to continue to explore the possibilities of maturing the innovation and bringing it to the market.
“The reduction achieved in terms of material and energy consumption will enable companies to decrease their manufacturing costs and reduce the environmental impact,” she concludes.