Software predicts thermoplastic composites for automotive industry

Software could make the use of thermoplastic composites practical in the automotive industry.
Researchers are on the verge of a breakthrough that will allow for the wide-scale use of thermoplastic composites in the automotive industry.

The light, yet strong materials are rigid and also sustainable and recyclable.

Researchers at the ThermoPlastic Composite Research Center (TPRC) in Enschede, the Netherlands, report that they have overcome the final hurdle of designing practically faultless components and to make the process for doing so predictable. This makes it possible to determine at an early stage of the design process whether a component can be manufactured at all, satisfying the two biggest requirements of the automotive industry, namely weight reduction and reduced costs.

Bert Rietman, business developer at the TPRC says: "Products made with these materials can be up to around 40% lighter than the materials usually used in cars … but many manufacturers are still not keen on these materials. The experience they have gained processing steel, for example, cannot be wholly transferred to composite processing".

The University of Twente has designed software following research by doctoral degree candidate Ulrich Sachs. He investigated thermoplastic composites, how they bend, friction and slip. "Designers want to know whether a component can be manufactured or not as quickly as possible," explains Sachs. "For example, they want to know whether the material will wrinkle during forming, and whether the final product and the manufacturing process will be satisfactory. The automotive industry requires simulation of new materials and processes, but the software for forming metal currently in use is not suitable for simulating the behaviour of thermoplastic composites."


Author
Caroline Hayes

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