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RESEARCH ON EFFICIENT INTEGRATED SYSTEMS FOR THE MANUFACTURING OF COMPLEX PARTS BASED ON UNIDIRECTIONAL TAPES FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE AND AERONAUTICAL

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - FORTAPE (RESEARCH ON EFFICIENT INTEGRATED SYSTEMS FOR THE MANUFACTURING OF COMPLEX PARTS BASED ON UNIDIRECTIONAL TAPES FOR THE AUTOMOTIVE AND AERONAUTICAL)

Reporting period: 2016-08-01 to 2018-01-31

Carbon and glass fibre unidirectional continuous tape reinforced composites are one of the most promising options to achieve the high performance composite materials demanded by the transport sector. However, the current technologies are not mature enough for a full industrial implementation; main barriers are related to the high consumption of resources, lower rates of automation and high production of defective. FORTAPE aims to solve these drawbacks through the development of an efficient and optimized integrated system for the manufacturing of complex parts based on unidirectional fibre tapes. It is expected to provide wide-ranging benefits to transport sector, in particular for the automotive and aeronautical industries.

The technical objectives are the following ones:

Challenge 1: Development of an efficient process for carbon fibre (CF) and glass fibre (GF) unidirectional (UD) tapes manufacturing.
Challenge 2: Development of an innovative over-moulding technology to manufacture complex composite parts locally reinforced with UD tapes.
Challenge 3: Novel in-situ consolidation technology to manufacture complex aeronautical parts without the need of autoclave.
Challenge 4: Novel modelling concepts to assess the geometry design of complex parts and to select the best strategy for the part manufacturing.
"Work performed during the project:

Following a global approach, from the raw material, the automatization and control of the manufacturing process to the modelling of the final part, the Consortium has achieved promising results during the execution of the activity. The project progress through the main 3 axes (tapes manufacturing, part manufacturing and modelling of process/part) is explained below.
Tape manufacturing process:
There are 2 relevant research lines for the tape manufacturing process, attending the final application:
- For the automotive sector, the main goal is to develop a highly efficient process able to produce a large volume of ready-to-use tapes, minimising their cost. Polypropylene and glass fibre were used attending to their good balance between price and performances. Different impregnation methods were tested in a monotape line, selecting the melting polymer technology as the best choice for this kind of polymer. Currently, a multitape system is under construction, to increase exponentially the production ratio, improve the efficiency and optimise the cost.

- For the aeronautical sector, the main goal is to reach a high quality tape, based in a fireproof polyamide with carbon fibres, processable by in-situ consolidation. Due the viscose nature of this type of polymer, different impregnation methods were tested to reduce the voids and increase the performances of the tape. The super critical CO2 process and the fluidized bed technologies were selected as the most promising process for the aeronautical sector.
Parts manufacturing:

As for the tape manufacturing process, different approach were developed depending on the final application:
- In the case of the automotive sector, the overmoulding of UD tapes guarantee a high production ratio using a conventional injection moulding machine. During these first months, first trials were carried out using simplified geometries, in order to optimise the injection moulding parameters to reduce the warpage and to measure the effect of the UD tapes in the mechanical properties. The preliminary results showed a significant improvement in the flexural performances. The strategy for the automation of the tapes lay-out was developed, and during last months complex geometries were developed obtaining promising results.

- The process for the aeronautical application (the in-situ consolidation) was tested using the first manufactured tapes. The parameters had to be adapted to work with PA instead of PEEK, and some trials were carried out. The imperfections of the samples (voids, delamination, etc.) were analysed and the best kind of tape was selected in consequence, to continue with the research. High quality UD tapes were obtained during last months and a prototype part (window frame) was obtained as demonstrator.


The main results obtained in the Project (Key Exploitable Results) are:

- Innovative manufacturing methods of UD tapes. These methods include the newly developed ""multitape technology"" using different impregnation methods. The main advantage of these UD tapes is the fact of having an inline calibration at 1/4"" or 1/2"" withouth slitting, post consolidation or splicing steps.

- Development of models for the prediction of crash behaviour of UD-tapes used within injection molded parts. This is the first model that predicts the local reinforcement due to the overmolding of UD tapes.

- Development of integrated and cost-effective manufacturing processes for automotive and aeornautical parts using UD tapes.
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FORTAPE will develop a sustainable and efficient technology for the manufacture of UD tapes and its implementation for the fabrication of complex parts for the automotive and aeronautic sector. It is necessary to establish a basis of comparison to be able to quantify the potential impact of the processes to be developed in the two target sectors. Hence, two types of parts are going to be used as a basis, one for the automotive sector and another one for the aeronautics. These parts are just given as an example, but the results of the project could be applied to many other objective parts

The impact will be assessed as it is explained below, thus contributing to the requested goals defined in the topic FoF2-2014:

a) Reduction of at least 30% in the material usage pertaining to the manufacturing of complex structures and geometries when compared to current average values. FORTAPE solutions will provide a 53,72% of material savings compared to the current average values of a door panel manufacturing and a 12,05% compared to the last advances of the state-of-the-art values (automotive). FORTAPE will represent a material saving up to 90,65% of raw material compared to the current average methods used for the seatlegs manufacturing (aeronautics).

b) Reduction of at least 20% in the overall energy consumption related to the manufacturing of complex structures and geometries when compared to current average values. An energy saving of 51,10% for the production of vehicle door panel, compared to the average values from the current processes. Moreover, comparing to the last advances beyond the state-of-the-art, an energy saving of 13,68% can be achieved (automotive). An energy reduction of 68,63% is achieved with respect to the average of the current values (aeronautics).

c) Elimination of faulty manufactured parts by the adequate combination of integrated process-machine approaches with a continuous control of process parameters.

FORTAPE will contribute in several ways to the improvement of the environmental impact through the development of novel efficient concepts of manufacturing processes for composite parts:
- Reduction of material usage
- Decrease of energy consumption during the whole processing value chain
- Elimination of faulty manufactured parts
- Reduction of the defective rate
- Facilitation of part recycling at the end-of-life
- Manufacturing of a composite part with less weight
The project aims to create new know-how related the UD tape composite manufacturing with an expected time to market of 2 years.