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Efficient Material Hybridization by Unconventional Layup and Forming of Metals and Composites for Fabrication of Multifunctional Structures

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - LAY2FORM (Efficient Material Hybridization by Unconventional Layup and Forming of Metals and Composites for Fabrication of Multifunctional Structures)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-09-30

What is the problem/issue being addressed?
The transport sector is under constant pressure to produce innovative lightweight structural solutions that improve vehicle fuel consumption. Single-material structural components in vehicles can be replaced, advantageously, by layered integrated multimaterial systems. When properly selected and designed these layered composite-metal hybrid materials enable a significant weight reduction and consequently lower CO2 emissions. Transition from an all metal or composite bulk to a multi-layer hybrid metal/composite has already been shown to provide advances in crashworthiness, impact, strength, acoustic and vibrational performance in automotive and aerospace components and assemblies. Despite intensive research and low-volume production, advanced continuous fibre polymer composites still lack truly high-volume applications in the automotive sector. LAY2FORM aims to demonstrate how the integration of novel unconventional technologies, into manufacturing systems provides an efficient, flexible and cost-effective solution for the manufacturing of multifunctional hybrid lightweight materials. The implementation of an end-to-end engineering concept implements a continuous and automated process chain adapted for a mass customisation manufacturing able to handle efficiently a range of material combinations and products (adapted to Industry 4.0 vision).

Why is it important for society?
One of the key societal challenges of today in Europe is its transport-related decarbonisation, from the road transport to the aviation sectors. Over the past few decades, structural design for vehicle structures has been subjected to multiple pressures of different stakeholders focused in decreasing their footprint and in improving their safety towards increased transport efficiency, reduced emissions and life cycle impact of the vehicle on the environment, as well as to improve the safety, performance, functionality, comfort and perceived quality. LAY2FORM results can certainly contribute to the ongoing deep changes on the overall mobility sector, particularly in the current trend of sensor/ actuator-based interaction between the society, the vehicles and the transport infrastructures.

What are the overall objectives?
The main goal of LAY2FORM is to develop a new advanced and highly integrated manufacturing process for forming of layered metal/ thermoplastic-matrix composite hybrid materials, suitable to highly dynamic and competitive manufacturing environments, such as those of the automotive sector. Unconventional technologies (laser and Ultrasound-US) will be integrated into the manufacturing route, for material modification, adhesion, shaping, spot welding and consolidation, as well as for end-of-life material disassembly. The innovative integrated process will be assisted with simulation, cognitive automation, decision support, real-time control and advanced in-line NDT techniques, in a fully automated multi-stage manufacturing system. Forming of metal foil / carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastic hybrids will be demonstrated in industrially relevant conditions.
A summary of the main results achieved during the second review period of the project is listed below:
- The manufacturing and sustainability tool and respective inventory structure has been finalized, and now moving on to the data collection of the pilot line design for the future assessment of the manufacturing efficiency and sustainability levels;
- On the side of the final demonstrator part, a finite element method (FEM) analysis and numerical validation was performed according to material specifications and structural validation protocol. The part was redesigned with a skeleton structure continuous fibre with the aluminium reinforcements, while a GMT will complete the remaining part volume;
- The consortium decided to divide the manufacturing lines into 4 separated manufacturing lines.
- Demonstration of hot-forming simulation with hybrid material using PAM-FORM and layup and Co-Forming Strategies were completed. In regards to non-destructive techniques (NDT) applied to in-line quality control, performances in detecting parameters affecting sample’s quality were assessed, at lab-scale and in the prototype production environment;
- The bonding strategies have been defined through mechanical tests of structural joint with textured aluminium foils coated with anticorrosive coating and joined to composite sheets.
- The development of the self-adaptive system (SAS) was completed using simulated data. The hybrid digital twin was also tested with available data. Some of these system are currently working at lab scale level, but will be integrated once the industrial relevant setup is completed.
- The assembly of the pilot line and modules integration is currently under development and the data workflow integration works has been carried out in the manufacturing process. The status of each station is the following:
a) Laser texturing station: the samples are currently being manufactured with the laboratory setup, but a new system is being studied, more suitable for an industrial environment, with a much higher processing speed, more robust and less sensitive to small positioning errors.
b) Coating station: the necessary equipment for the coating process is available in Rescoll.
c) Layup station: it is mechanically designed and is in the process of being manufactured.
d) Forming station: the infrared lamps are installed in the transfer and everything is ready to integrated into the press. The grippers of the robots are being manufactured. The GMT furnace has already been automated.
e) Trimming station: the cutting head is mounted on the robot and the cell is ready. The robot code is generated automatically from FReeCAD and the OPC-UA communication is ready.
Current knowledge-based modelling of such materials and processes can be integrated in cognitive systems that monitor and correct production, and that this enhanced manufacturing capability can further increase speed, efficiency and cost savings. Significant technical breakthroughs are still required to meet the targets of project:
- Flexible manufacturing strategies applicable to all kinds of metals and fibre-reinforced polymer composites thin layered materials, replacing complex and low efficient assemblies of different components and materials, insuring the lowest use of energy and resources along the full manufacturing chain and at the end of life.
- Efficient processing techniques, leading to significant time and resources savings during manufacturing. Composite-metal cobonding (adhesive-free), integrated consolidation/ heating of the composite-metal blanks (typically highly energy-consuming) and the extensive use of laser and US (clean and low energy-intensive energy sources) in all the four main processing stations as well as disassembly at the end-of-life.
- Tight quality control and fault tolerance concepts at the material tape/foil, blank and product-level, by foreseeing the real-time detection and solving of defects along the full manufacturing chain, minimizing the waste of all type of resources, while improving quality.
- Tailored Eco-efficiency and LCA approaches and tools embedded in component design and manufacturing. LAY2FORM will assess the feasibility of the multi-material parts production, mostly based on the efficiency of the alternative manufacturing routes to be developed.