Simulation of forming 3D curved sandwich panels

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Simulation of forming 3D curved sandwich panels

Host Institution: The University of Nottingham

Lead Investigator: Nick Warrior


The iStream® CARBON process, developed by Gordon Murray Design (GMD), is a step change in composites manufacturing [1]. It is the world’s first affordable high volume carbon fibre chassis technology, utilising two carbon skins sandwiching a honeycomb core, unlike many expensive handmade supercars which employ monolithic (single skin) carbon panels. The final 3D sandwich part, with targeted varying section thickness, is produced from a 2D format using a matched tool forming process. This technology enables a reduction of up to 80% in capital investment and 200kg in weight savings with high levels of product flexibility, safety and rigidity, while using 60% less manufacturing energy. It is a fully mechanised system with cycle time less than 100 seconds and annual production volumes between 1,000 and 350,000 units. However, the full potential of this process has not been fully realised and it is still only used in a small number of niche automotive projects. The key to unlocking its potential is the development of a simulation tool to predict the forming behaviour and design this process for rapid manufacture of high-quality but low-cost composite sandwich structures.

The aim of this feasibility study is to develop a numerical tool as an essential catalyst to accelerate this step change in composite manufacturing. The simulation tool will facilitate the improvement of the forming process and extend the opportunity to apply this low-cost technique in manufacturing complex parts with medium and above volumes. FE simulation provides an effective and efficient way to determine a set of compatible process parameters to ensure a successful manufacturing solution. It is able to precisely locate defects and comprehensively visualise forming behaviour of all areas, including the surface panels and the core. The application of simulation will assist in reducing risks for industry by demonstrating the feasibility of this process before implementation.

The main objectives of this proposal are (1) to develop an explicit Finite Element (FE) model of the forming process of sandwich panel to understand the primary factors of producing a defect-free product and (2) to develop a feasible solution to manufacture high-quality curved sandwich part. The developed FE model will be used to inform design choices and to drive future manufacturing process design and optimisation. The methodology of material characterisation and the manufacturing procedures will be set as a benchmark for further developments.

This proposal fits within the Hub priority areas of both “High rate desposition and rapid processing technologies” and “Design for manufacture via validated simulation”.

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