Affordable Thermoplastic Matrix CFC/Metallic Framework Structures Manufacture

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Affordable Thermoplastic Matrix CFC/Metallic Framework Structures Manufacture

Host Institution: Cranfield University

Lead Investigator: Andrew Mills, Aurèle Bras, Lawrence Cook


The project investigated novel design and manufacturing techniques, which show the potential for manufacturing lightweight structural frameworks at high manufacturing rate using carbon fibre reinforced polyamide matrix laminate or tubing and metallic joints. Novel joining techniques have been developed to provide connection by interlocking so as to eliminate mechanical fasteners and adhesive bonding. The project aimed to establish the feasibility and potential affordability of the conceptual process in terms of frame section and joining piece manufacture and frame and joint attachment technique, and to propose framework designs based on the proposed approach for structural applications.


Many concepts for thermoplastic matrix and metallic hybrid structures have been identified. Taking a sports car fully body structure geometry and carrying out a loading study, novel structures suitable for high rate manufacturing have been proposed. These utilise combinations of pultruded tubular sections and folded thermoplastic ‘organosheets’. The tubular parts are proposed to be joined using low cost metallic connectors. The concepts do not therefore require dedicated mould tooling for shaping the parts. The following concepts are considered to offer the most potential for structural application and further investigation:

  1. Metallic joint wrapping
  2. Composite tube swaging
  3. Metal joint interlocking with composite sections

Evidence of Impact

The project’s findings comprising design and manufacturing understanding have been used in a variety of ways.

For example: Design and manufacture of attachment fittings for a medium volume, lightweight car body floor structure. These have been built into the project demonstrator for a £7M AMSCI collaborative project Lightweighting Excellence, a full carbon fibre composite platform for a medium volume car in conjunction with Nissan UK and Bentley Motors.

A KTP was launched in July 2016 with the project partner bigHead fasteners to translate the projectdeveloped technology into new types of composite attachment fittings for volume manufacture using the CIMComp project findings.

The project results are also being utilised with the CIMComp project team involvement in a BAE SYSTEMS led Innovate UK project, HITEA for fighter aircraft primary structure joints. Use in both Master’s courses and an industry focused short course in composites manufacturing. In February 2018, the Cranfield Research Fellow Lawrence Cook left the University to join one of the project’s industrial partners bigHead. BigHead will be developing new fastener types and application techniques initially investigated during the project. Envisaged market sectors for these are; worldwide automotive bodies, lorry structures and wind turbine generators.

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