Multi-Step Thermoforming of Multi-Cavity, Multi-Axial Advanced Thermoplastic Composite Parts

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Multi-Step Thermoforming of Multi-Cavity, Multi-Axial Advanced Thermoplastic Composite Parts

Host Institution: University of Glasgow

Lead Investigator: Philip Harrison


If the inherent difficulties in manufacturing with advanced thermoplastic composites can be overcome, they offer a route to rapid production of high performance (light-weight, tough, recyclable) structural components. Rapid thermo-forming of advanced thermoplastic composite laminates is of particular interest in the automotive industry due to the changing economics caused by new legislative pressure to reduce emissions. This pressure is improving the viability of advanced thermoplastic composites in replacing more traditional, heavier materials. However, without significant reductions in their manufacturing cost, their exploitation will be restricted to niche, high-end markets. Only by understanding and solving the fundamental problems involved in processing these materials can their potential be fully exploited in the much larger, lower cost markets.

This proposal addresses two important problems related to the manufacture of advanced thermoplastic composites via press forming, and will offer solutions to both. The solution to problem 1 is a pre-requisite to solving problem 2:

Problem 1: How to press-form highly complex geometries with three or more cavities, without inducing defects due to bridging and tearing of the forming laminate?
Problem 2: How to press-form complex components from pre-consolidated multi-axial thermoplastic laminates without inducing wrinkles.

The CIMComp Hub aims to ‘enable Moore’s Law for Composites’. Implicit to this goal is a reduction in cost via faster and more robust processing. The proposed research fits within the ‘rapid
processing’ research priority theme and is aimed at decreasing cost by increasing the rate of production, reducing secondary processing and improving robustness of the thermo-forming process by mitigating the generation of defects such as wrinkling. Part 1 of the proposal (multi- step forming) is innovative with moderate risk and would enhance the state of the art in forming technology. Part 2 (forming of multi-axial pre-consolidated hybrid laminates) is a radical idea with a good measure of risk and uncertainty. However, if successful, the technique would represent a step-change in current press-forming technology for advanced thermoplastic composite laminates.

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