Thermoplastic composites closer to mass production

A collaborative project between DuPont and Citroën has brought the use of structural thermoplastic composite parts a step closer to mass production.

The side impact beam from a Citroën C3 door has been successfully made from a continuous glass fibre weave that has been infused with PA 66 thermoplastic, which essentially acts as the resin system.

The project hopes to develop manufacturing technologies that are similar to existing automotive processes and tooling to allow an easy step change to the lighter thermoplastic material.

The part was produced from a sheet of thermoplastic continuous glass fibre composite sheet that was cut to shape before being heated and stamp formed in to the 3D beam. This part is then overmoulded (orange/red) with a short glass fibre PA 66 to add the required stiffness and strength using clever geometry and reinforced ribbed sections (see picture of the part at each of four stages of the process). At either end of the beam metal tabs are added to allow the part to be fastened, riveted or welded in to place.

In comparison to ultra high strength (1200MPa) usually used by Citroën for the beam, the thermoplastic composite is 40% lighter and able to absorb more energy. It is hoped that the process can be further developed with cost optimised so parts can be mass produced as soon as 2016. Further structural parts are also likely to use thermoplastic composite materials as the automotive industry strives to meet tough CO2 emission targets in 2020.

Justin Cunningham

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