A new project from the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI; Knoxville, Tenn.), in partnership with DuPont (Wilmington, Del.), Fibrtec Inc. (Atlanta, Texas) and Purdue University (W. Lafayette, Ind.), is focused on decreasing the cost of manufacture and increasing design flexibility for automotive composites.
Multiple factors, including cost and design constraints, present barriers to the adoption of composites in high-volume automotive applications. This new IACMI project will address both of these critical areas through a fundamentally different approach to the manufacturing of carbon fiber composites versus those currently in use today. The work will build on synergies of differentiated technologies. Flexible coated tow manufactured by Fibrtec will be formed into flexible fabric prepregs using a Rapid Fabric Formation (RFF) technology along with a proprietary polyamide resin both by DuPont. The final component will benefit from increased production speeds of the tow manufacturing process and the fabric forming process resulting in a lower cost of manufacture. Composite parts made by this process have been shown to have low voids and good mechanical properties when consolidated by traditional techniques. The flexible fabric prepregs have also been shown to have good draping behavior in molding experiments. Researchers in the Purdue University Composites Manufacturing and Simulation Center will work with the team to model and validate drapability and part performance.
High cycle time for production of continuous carbon fiber thermoplastic composites increases costs. The use of emerging materials for impregnation and new approaches for tow coating and fabric formation are expected to significantly lower production costs of high-volume composites. “By leveraging the strengths of all project partners, we have the potential to create a unique commercially viable path to high-volume, low-cost thermoplastic composite automotive components,” says Jan Sawgle, DuPont performance materials and project manager.