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

  • Functionalisation of FRP structural parts through the backmoulding of thermoset moulding compounds

  • InProLight – thermoplastic FRP lightweight parts through 3D fibre spraying and variothermal consolidation
  • Development of functionalised, unidirectional fibre-reinforced semi-finished products for the large series production of innovative, highly load-resistant plastic battery housings for electric vehicles (EFRE NRW)
  • Production by the gap impregnation process of a CRP engine hood suitable for direct surface coating
  • Modelling of the production-induced shrinkage behaviour of glass fibre-reinforced thermosets
  • iComposite 4.0: Integrative and self-regulating production unit for composites
  • Interactive repair workshop of the future for electric vehicles of CRP
  • Development of an injection unit for quality-assured and automated RTM production
  • Research group 860 "New process chains for composites: Integration of preforming, impregnation, forming and curing"
  • DELFIN: Research into alternative materials and production processes for cost and waste-reduced pressure vessels of continuous fibre-reinforced plastic
  • Thermoset FRP/metal hybrid structures through the integration of weld inserts
  • Hybrid SMC – function-integrated composite lightweight parts
  • Customised production of functionalised thermoplastic FRP lightweight parts through combination with additive manufacturing
  • Customised production of lightweight parts by thermoplastic foam injection moulding with local UD tape reinforcement enabled by Industrie 4.0
  • LightWeightTankMat: Multi-material lightweight construction for plastic fuel tanks
  • Property-improved profiles through the simultaneous combination of PU pultrusion and thermoplastic extrusion
  • Topic range: tape production and further processing
  • Material characterisation of highly reactive resins under near-process conditions
  • Development of process-optimised hybrid yarns for the fibre spraying process
  • Pultrusion process development with highly reactive matrix materials 

Daniel Schneider, M.Sc.

Head of department Composites and Polyurethane Technology +49 241 80 23884 daniel.schneider@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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