Leading composites innovations for 2015 announced

As Europe's biggest composites show approaches, we look at the innovations that have been making the headlines.

The demand for lightweight strong materials continues at pace, with numerous composite applications coming to the fore in the last 12 months. These continue to impress, push boundaries and increase uptake.

As a result, this year's JEC Europe Composites Show will be packed with innovations from every industrial sector, from raw material producers to end-user markets, with the very best applications set to receive an Innovation Award. Here are some of the most promising and impressive to be on the show floors.

Long flax fibres in a thermoset reinforced sandwich panel

The Flaxpreg project, developed by Faurecia with PSA Peugeot Citroën, Lineo and the University of Reims, aims to design structural trim parts following three objectives: drastic weight reduction, the use of renewable resource, and cost and cycle times in line with automotive industry expectations.

Flaxpreg is a 'green' lightweight thermoset sandwich reinforced panel that uses very long flax fibres. It can be effectively used as a trunk load floor or even as a structural floor in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. The very low density of the FlaxTapes combined with their adaptive 0°/90°/0° orientation (for each skin) result in a 35% weight reduction compared to petroleum sourced glass mat/PUR sandwich solutions with the same mechanical properties.

The prepreg FlaxTapes (about 120 g/m²) that constitute the skins are unidirectionally-aligned flax fibre tapes and with acrylic resin are easily handled without any spinning or weaving steps. It means it avoids out-of-plane crimping of the near continuous flax fibres.

Flaxpreg aims to compete in markets dominated by Baypreg thermoset technology (PU + glass fibres).

MAN leads project to cut the weight of bus beam by 70% using CFRP

The air spring beam used on buses made by German based commercial vehicle manufacturer MAN have been redeveloped using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymers (CFRP), resulting in the component weight being slashed by 70%. The beams were previously manufactured in steel and weighed 53 kg, but the new composite components weigh just 16 kg.

MAN had the idea to manufacture the beam from CFRP to reduce weight and looked for a partner that could build the component and also produce it in high volumes. Munich Composites designed the prototype for the CFRP beam.

But it's the processing technology that's been really key. Where repeatability is a must for the automotive industry, the composite beams have to guarantee the highest part quality. It was this that saw them select and develop a braiding technology to produce the CFRP beam, as the process is completely automated.

Several robots guide the core of the beam through the braiding machine (above) without any manual interference whatsoever. It enables high productivity and very low scrap, as well as cost effective production parts.

Bolt on generic carbon fibre motorcycle wheel

The wheel produced by South African Blackstone Tek is able to reduce the amount of aluminium in the wheel assembly by 32%, allowing for a lighter and optimised structure.

It was also able to optimise the production process by developing an out-of-autoclave curing process for the pre-impregnated material used to create the wheel. The process includes the oven curing of the wheel using a purpose-built, internal and external pressure device that can be removed and reused on subsequent wheels.

Carbon fibre motorcycle wheels offer benefits such as lower weight, lower rotational inertia, and high stiffness. These benefits allow for the motorcycle to achieve greater fuel efficiency, greater acceleration, better braking distances, as well as better cornering.

The nature of the components included in the wheel assembly also reduce the wheel's susceptibility to corrosion. These effects all contribute to the overall improved performance and safety of the motorcycle. In addition to these technical benefits, the aesthetics of the wheel is an undeniable benefit.

Carbon fibre frame design for automotive body could be game changer

At the core of the pioneering frame around the Hyundai Intrado concept car are carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) tubes, which are reported to be as flexible as rope. By aligning and then curing them, the resulting structure becomes rigid and strong, but incredibly lightweight by comparison.

The frame is formed from precisely shaped continuous loops made from the newly formed material. These serve as self contained modular frames for the roof, hood and even the doors on either side of the car, which are then bonded to each other along their lengths at ambient temperature.

The seals of the opening panels shut directly against these frames, further reducing weight and showcasing the carbon fibre whenever the doors, hood or trunk are opened.

By bonding the carbon loops along their lengths, rather than at cross-sections, the Intrado's frame is stronger and suffers from less torsional stress, meaning the agility and precision of the engineering remains constant. Additionally, the 'open' corners allow designers greater flexibility.

Running along the length of the Intrado is a floating centre console beam. This beam provides the Intrado with its unique strength in addition to connecting the passenger compartment and powertrain with the carbon frame.
By building the Intrado with advanced carbon fibre reinforced composites, a 50% saving in the overall weight is achieved compared to similar steel structures. In addition these unique qualities make it more repairable than typical carbon fibre structures.

3D permeability bench to aid composite proliferation

The main objective of EASYPERM is to enable the use of composite materials by increasing the level of understanding in end users. Permeability measurements help users to simulate processes, compare reinforcements and check reinforcement quality.

The EASYPERM bench is reported to be the only system on the market that offers an industrial solution for measuring the permeability of a dry reinforcement through thickness (Z) and in-plane (X, Y).

EASYPERM allows evaluation of the reinforcement once it has been impregnated by a liquid resin. This is a crucial step in performing filling simulations for large and complex parts, and also for process optimisation in the case of high production rates.

EASYPERM has been developed by French company PPE, which benefits from more than 10 years experience in permeability measurement and associated device development.

Justin Cunningham

This material is protected by MA Business copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.


Supporting Information
Do you have any comments about this article?

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

© MA Business Ltd (a Mark Allen Group Company) 2021