The aim of the Stellar project is to develop the manufacturing process for high-speed placement of carbon, glass and polymer fibre reinforced matrices, in selected locations in a composite structure, to provide the optimum reinforcement, weight and cost profile within a part.
The use of composite materials in structural components is becoming well established in a range of applications, and the materials can offer significant benefits in mechanical properties, weight and through-life environmental impact. However, whilst some hybrid structures do exist, these are typically combinations of relatively isotropic materials, which only go part of the way to optimising the amount of materials used in the structure. The ideal structure has different combinations of composite materials in predetermined locations in a hybrid multi-material structure, but to date this has not been achievable because cost-effective manufacturing processes have not been available.
The concept of this project is therefore to develop the design methodologies, manufacturing processes, equipment and control systems needed for localised placement of different fibre-reinforced thermoplastic composite tapes onto different substrates, creating locally reinforced components that are fully weight-optimised. To achieve this, the project will focus on development of the Automated Tape Laying (ATL) process to selectively place reinforced thermoplastic tapes in 3 manufacturing routes:
• Selective reinforcement of existing components
• Direct additive manufacture of components
• Manufacture of selectively reinforced tailored blanks for compression moulding
The manufacturing process developed will have a significant effect on the weight of structures, as for the first time it will allow different reinforcement fibres (polymer, glass, carbon) to be used synergistically in the same thermoplastic polymer matrix, to produce hybrid multi-material structural components with optimised performance and weight.
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