Establishing fibre-reinforced plastics in high-volume production

Composites or fibre-reinforced plastics (FRP) nowadays play a key role as highly load-resistant lightweight construction materials for lowering energy and material consumption and for reducing emissions in a wide variety of applications and industries. Today, the use of fibre-reinforced plastics is no longer restricted to small series with many variants or individual items. With present-day production processes, it is possible to achieve short cycle times of only a few minutes and thus manufacture economically in large series.

IKV focuses on the following process chains for fibre-reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics:

  • Liquid impregnation process for continuous fibre-reinforced thermosets (RTM and liquid resin press moulding)
  • Production and forming of continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastics (UD tapes and composite sheet)
  • Continuous processing of rovings (pultrusion and filament winding)
  • Compression flow moulding of long fibre-reinforced moulding compounds
  • Injection moulding of short and long fibre-reinforced thermoplastics and thermosets

Apart from the technical aspects, we also examine the suitability of the process for high-volume production and the economic viability of the processing method. 

Interdisciplinary research on fibre-reinforced thermosets and thermoplastics

For economical high-volume production, the main challenge is not just to ensure that the manufactured part has excellent properties but also to further optimise cycle times, and above all:

- ­to increase cost and material efficiency
- to improve the robustness and productivity of the manufacturing processes
- to ensure the correct dimensioning of the parts to fully exploit the material's potential
- to customise and self-regulate the production processes

In order to holistically solve the above challenges, close interdisciplinary cooperation with the research partners of RWTH Aachen University's Composites network is the key to the successful transition of composites to large-series production.

For more than 30 years now, IKV has, together with its research partners, been carrying out research into processing methods and process chains for composites and other lightweight construction materials. This research has focused on the aspects of materials science and production technology, right the way through to full process chain integration and upscaling at the Aachen Centre for Integrative Lightweight Design, which was co-founded by IKV. 

Ongoing research projects in the field of composites

  • Production of a directly coatable CRP engine hood by the gap impregnation process
  • Profiles with improved properties through the simultaneous combination of PU pultrusion and thermoplastic extrusion
  • Series production of FRP parts with PU matrix and transparent visible surface
  • Large-volume production of continuous fibre-reinforced sandwich parts through process-integrated impregnation and foaming
  • iComposite 4.0: Integrative and self-regulating production unit for composites
  • Damage behaviour of FRP under cyclic load with reversal of load direction
  • Interactive repair workshop of the future for electric vehicles built with CRP
  • Customised production of functionalised TP-FRP lightweight parts through combination with additive manufacturing
  • Building of an injection unit for quality-assured and automated RTM production
  • Infinite service life for high-performance materials subjected to cyclical loads
  • Customised production of lightweight parts by thermoplastic foam injection moulding with local UD tape reinforcement enabled by Industry 4.0
  • Integrative process chain for the production of offcut-optimised lightweight parts (InProLight)
  • Research group 860: "New process chains for composites: Integration of preforming, impregnation, forming and curing"

Dipl.-Wirt.-Ing. Arne Böttcher

Head of department Composites and Polyurethane Technology +49 241 80 23884 arne.boettcher@ikv.rwth-aachen.de

We develop solutions for the plastics industry

IKV has an excellently equipped FRP pilot plant for carrying out industrial joint research projects or bilateral research projects. There, we have a variety of forming, moulding and compression moulding units, mould carriers, filament winding unit, pultrusion unit, PU spray centre and a tape production machine. In addition, we have access to a wide variety of moulds, temperature control systems and sensor systems. 

We offer our industry customers the following services:

  • Analysis of material and processing properties
  • Practical testing of new materials and material combinations
  • Advice on technology and process optimisation
  • Joint development of new processes and technologies 

 

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