CW Blog

By: Dale Brosius 11/22/2019

Corvette: A multi-material success history

Corvette: A multi-material success history

 

The prevailing narrative among the composites community for the past decade is that the “vehicle of the future” will be multi-material — some combination of steel, aluminum and composites in the body panels and structure. At the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition (SPE ACCE) in Novi, Mich., U.S., this September, attendees were treated to a display of the new 2020 Chevrolet Corvette (also designated C8, denoting the eighth generation version of the model), alongside a cutaway vehicle showing how truly multi-material — and multi-process — this car is.

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FRP, pultrusion enable mobile Antarctic habitat module

 

Fibreglass Developments Ltd. (Feilding, New Zealand) has manufactured a composite living module for Scott Base, New Zealand’s Antarctic research station. The company was contracted to build the first mobile habitat in a new, more durable construction design that is being trialed by research institute Antarctica New Zealand. The self-contained living unit is designed to withstand the extreme environment, which can experience conditions of 200 kilometers per hour winds and 60°C temperatures. Strength, rigidity and insulation were all taken into consideration for the design.

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Injection overmolding of unidirectional fibers and preforms is an attractive process for many good reasons. It’s fast, consistent and repeatable, and it can be performed with a machine that is relatively easy to acquire, program and control. Injection molding’s disadvantage, however, is it requires tooling that is typically very expensive — certainly more expensive than tools for compression molding. Further, overmolding requires that the composite be encapsulated within the tool, and if it’s a larger part, that means larger tooling. Add it all up and the cost of composites overmolding can exceed its benefits.

Robert Davies, CEO of Fibrtec (Atlanta, Texas, U.S.), has developed an interesting solution to this particular overmolding dilemma. His system uses a hybrid injection/compression overmolding process of his own design to combine smaller injection molded parts or inserts within a larger compression molded part. In essence, the approach flips the script on the overmolding strategy. Rather than injection mold around a composite preform, Davies’ solution involves compression molding around an injection molded part.

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Composites training firm lends a hand with Mars rover

 

Of all the exciting applications that CW gets to report on, space applications are some of the ones that are especially quick to capture my imagination. Whenever a space story crosses my desk I jump at the chance to cover it, so I can only imagine how excited Wilson Boynton, founder and president of Advanced Composites Training (ACT, London, Ontario, Canada) was to be invited to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, Pasadena, Calif., U.S.) to help train engineers in the use of composite materials for construction of the Mars 2020 rover.

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