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Experience Composites innovation awards winners announcement

News International-French

21 Sep 2016

For the first edition of Experience Composites in Ausburg, JEC Group is proud to announce the winners of its Innovation Awards program.

Following the development of composite materials, the program is rewarding 6 projects in various fields of application such as: Construction & Infrastructure, Aeronautics & Aerospace, Automotive & Transport, Mass Production, Semi-Product Equipment and Automation.


Construction & Infrastructure

First fire resistant GFRP to achieve incombustible class
Despite its numerous advantages, the use of Glass-Fibre reinforced polymers (GFRP) as building materials has been limited by their reaction to fire that was at best categorized as “generally flammable” (Class B1). To make better use of the advantages of composites materials in the construction field, FISCO GmbH has launched the development of an incombustible glass fibre based composite material. Using the knowledge and experience of its mother companies in the fields of fibre treatment and construction materials and solutions, the joint venture managed to develop GFRP that achieves a higher fire resistant class in building materials (Class A1).

The “fi:resist” material, made from glass fibres and a newly developed inorganic matrix, doesn’t emit smoke, flaming droplets or debris when submitted to a flame. It is also heat-resistant, water-resistant, steam-resistant and provides very low thermal conductivity, making it widely useable for indoor or outdoor building parts. Its mechanical properties are comparable to a standard polyester resin GFRP.

The main use of fi:resist will be for applications where fire protection is a compulsory requirement, but due to its low thermal conductivity, it can also be used as a fire barrier. It makes it possible to keep a fire within limits if one should be declared next to the GFRP part, e.g. in electrical installations.

And due to its properties, this new material could replace or act as a substitute for common building materials such as metals, plastics and wood, especially when a wide range of technical characteristics are needed in addition to incombustibility. Common materials used in construction can’t provide all these properties at the same time. Additionally, its cost stays close to a standard GFRP part made for building applications, making new optimal composite solutions possible.


Aeronautics & Aerospace

Aerotech® System for a more effective dust extraction
The processing of carbon composite parts produces a consequent quantity of dust. Because this dust stays on the part, it increases wear on the tooling and due to the speed of processing tools, this dust is also quite hot. So it often requires coolant to prevent thermal deformation or excess local heating during cutting operations. Based on this observation, Cruing identified an improvement potential for its equipment.

The Aerotech® System is made of a turbine installed around the processing tool that sucks air, and dust in it, though the fan outlets (more than 97% of the dust is extracted). This significantly reduces machining temperatures of the cutter and material by about 100°C while also increasing the tools’ lifetime and allowing manufacturers of composite parts to use dry cutting for their components instead of machining with coolants.

Compared to a conventional dust extraction system, this innovative system decreases the amount of dust on the workpieces, reducing the cleaning time after machining, and making the whole machine easier to use (absence of coolant). Furthermore, the Aerotech® System is compatible with most of the processing machines on the market, making it a lower cost investment.


Automotive & Transport

Mercedes-AMG GmbH 
Partners: Daimler AG,     ACE Advanced Composite Engineering GmbH 
Mercedes-Benz AMG GTR: High-Tech Lightweight Design for extraordinary Performance
This project consists in the design, development and manufacturing of high performance lightweight composite parts to replace existing aluminium solutions for torque-tube, fenders, tunnel reinforcement, roof, load distribution plates and rods of a sports car. These elements have a significant contribution to static and dynamic vehicle performance. Thus, the use of composites addresses the higher strength and stiffness requirements for the vehicle.

Based on the application and different parameters, such as manufacturing volume, geometric and functional complexity, etc. four different technologies were picked: RTM, Pultrusion, Prepreg Compression Moulding and Selective PrePreg Process (SPP). Thanks to the efficient optimization of the composite design, by using advanced engineering tools, and new innovative manufacturing processes, a mass reduction of 33% (12,3 kg) versus the existing aluminium solutions was achieved and all functional requirements were met or exceeded. For example, the mass of the carbon torque tube was reduced by 9 kg (or 40% weight savings) while reducing the probability of fatigue induced failure and increasing stiffness. GFRP load distribution plate improved crash performance and was lighter by 20%.

Overall, the composite solution enabled a reduced mass with equal or better performance which contributes to lower fuel consumption and improved vehicle dynamics. From a manufacturing aspect, new and innovative processes open up new opportunities to extend FRP components performances to achieve a higher production volume. One example presented within this project is the new SPP high volume CFRP manufacturing technology: this innovative process, developed by Multimatic, enables parallelisation of impregnation and curing process steps, greatly reducing cycle times over competing processes. In practice, the fibre preform and resin materials are transported through each step in the process via numerous low cost trays, to reduce cycle time down to 1 minute.


Mass Production

QSP® process ready for in-mould direct assembly
As the use of composites for lightweight solutions increases, the need for optimized and efficient multi-material assembly solutions will also expand. This project is an answer to this problematic, as it enables multi-material one-shot assemblies in thermoplastic composites. The CETIM, along with Loiretech, P.E.I. and Compose tooling, created a three-module thermoforming pilot line with patch cutting of organosheets or thermoplastic tapes, tape laying of the patches for preform assembly and fast heating, and a press to obtain net shape products. Collaborating with Böllhoff for inserts furniture and using this new Quilted Stratum Process® (QSP®), special movements are made in mould after closing the press, creating assemblies in the same cycle time, without any special operations on composites before or after forming.

During the process, the QSP® enables direct insertion of reinforced holes without overmoulding, where a rivet can be added after moulding. It also enables direct insertion of metal inserts through the composites with overmoulding added. Since no holes are drilled during this process, the damage on fibres is greatly reduced. Moreover, as fibres are pushed, it creates a local reinforcement around fixings that improves mechanical characteristics as well as energy absorption, which is particularly interesting for crash solicitations. Compared to drilled solutions, both type of assemblies shows an increase in mechanical resistance during a pull-through test of +30% and +75% respectively, or during a single lap-shear test of +60% and +70% respectively.

This pilot line is very promising for future high production rates of composite parts that required in many automotive or aeronautics applications, since it is a modular, scalable and flexible process that enables the production of multi-thickness and multi-orientation complex parts with short cycle times (40 to 90 s) and competitive rates due to the reduction of assembly costs.


Semi-Product Equipment

M&A Dieterle GmbH 
Multifunctional Torque-Fibre-Winding: on-demand textile UD Prepregs
This project consists of the development of a compact process equipment for the on-demand production of unidirectional textile based prepregs. Currently, prepreg manufacturing equipment is designed for continuous large series production. As such, they have limited flexibility to produce diverse prepreg materials with variable properties. The Torque-Fibre-Winding focuses on the need to produce on-demand highly drapable prepregs with tailored properties for prototypes or small series productions. The equipment uses thermoplastic porous non-woven fabrics on the winding drum as matrices. The fibres are then wound edge-to-edge onto the drum with constant tension to obtain the prepreg. To ensure the good quality and usability of the produced prepregs, the bonding between matrix and fibres is obtained with a short infrared heat impulse. This minimizes matrix flow paths for good fibre impregnation and reduces pressure needed to consolidate the prepregs. The use of porous textile matrix ensures void and defect free laminates.

The modular machine can be configured to fit customers’ requirements thanks to the possibility of changing roving types and matrix materials easily (thermoplastic or thermoset). The process also allows to tune the fibre volume content and surface weight for each production run, which makes the machine especially fitting for R&D departments. For example, thin-ply laminates down to 40g/m² can be produced up to a maximum prepreg size of 2m x 2m.

The produced prepregs have been extensively post-processed, using compression moulding, back injection moulding, and analysed to ensure a usability for users. These tests confirmed that the reproducibility of the process was good, and that mechanical properties for produced prepregs were similar to reference value obtain with standard prepreg manufacturing equipment.