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Directional Composites through Manufacturing Innovation

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DiCoMI (Directional Composites through Manufacturing Innovation)

Reporting period: 2018-03-01 to 2020-02-29

The DiCoMI project’s overall goal is to develop a low-cost hybrid system that will combine the fibre directionality obtained from 5-axis material extrusion with the accuracy obtained from other machining techniques in order to create a truly novel composites manufacturing system capable of producing parts with increased accuracy, reduced cost and enhanced functionality. DiCoMI will focus on Directional Fibre-Reinforced Polymers (FRP) materials and combine different manufacturing techniques into a unique and innovative hybrid system. The project will have a direct impact on the European and international scientific state of the art in the fields of composite materials and manufacturing equipment, while supporting the innovation potential in the automotive and other industries.

To develop this innovative hybrid manufacturing system, the following scientific and technical objectives will be targeted:
* Objective 1: Define the optimal performances specifications for the DiCoMI system process and materials according to the selected industries' requirements.
* Objective 2: Develop and test a range of polymer/fibre combinations matching pre-defined specifications.
* Objective 3: Design the system with appropriate manufacturing processes parameters.
* Objective 4: Build and test the prototype for specific directional composite/FRP components.

The DiCoMI project will have a direct impact on the European and international scientific state of the art in the fields of composite materials and manufacturing equipment, while supporting the innovation potential in the automotive and aerospace industries. The outcome will be a truly novel composites manufacturing system capable of producing parts with increased accuracy, reduced cost and enhanced functionality.
During Period 1 the DiCoMI consortium focused their effort on the definition of the most appropriate performance specifications for their hybrid manufacturing system. The applications chosen for the future DiCoMI prototype are automotive, consumer products, and possibly aerospace and medical but these will be restricted due to a high degree of regulation in these areas. The DiCoMI partners also determined the typical material properties required by the innovative system and evaluated current composite manufacturing processes to select the most appropriate ones for DiCoMI prototype. This activity ended up with a better understanding of currently available solutions and the definition of the key performance indicators for the DiCoMI process.

Regarding the materials, the consortium also made significant advancements in the field of directional composites by analysing the properties of a range of existing composite materials suitable for the chosen applications. Newly-developed polymer/fibre combinations have been tested for manufacturability together with established composites. The DiCoMI project focused on carbon fibre (CF) reinforced composites including CF-reinforced PLA, CF-reinforced PA and CF-reinforced ABS as well as wood fibre-reinforced Ingeo PLA material. Based on discussion with the industrial partners and research outcomes, the DiCoMI project decided that the two PLA-based materials will not be used for final demonstration part manufacture within the DiCoMI project. However, the PLA-based materials will still be used for additive manufacturing trials and analysis.

The consortium has started to work on the design of the hybrid manufacturing system and some secondments on the topic have already happened. The main outcomes are the initial additive and subtractive process parameters for the DiCoMI system as well as a first draft of the system architecture. This will represent the main focus of the project in the coming year which will directly impact the last phase of the project, namely the prototyping and testing of the DiCoMI hybrid manufacturing system.
The DiCoMI project has started to transfer significant knowledge between academia and industry both within European and worldwide. Publications on fibre-reinforced polymers and directional composite manufacturing processes have been well-received at international conferences and have been accepted for publication in highly-respected journals. These have already made a significant impact on the international research community and it is anticipated that, in due course, the results will make their way through to manufacturing industry. The use of directional composites has been shown to enable weight-reduction of parts and increase product efficiencies. This will help to reduce the running costs of, for example cars and trucks, and will have a longer-term impact on resource usage and exhaust emissions.

DiCoMI-inspired research into novel processing methods for composite materials has been recognised as internationally-leading. This includes new finishing techniques and cutting algorithms. Development of complex 5-axis control strategies in also ongoing. This work has formed the basis of a PhD project which will explore the bio-mimicry aspects of the DiCoMI technology, an exciting new direction of AM research that is generating much interest in both academia and industry. It could be particularly useful in bio-medical applications such as prosthetic limbs and bone replacement. The ability to create stronger, lighter parts at an affordable price will open up the use of composites in many other areas, also.

Work aimed at developing the computer models and simulation techniques needed for the software aspects of the DiCoMI project has also been progressing well. This will be necessary for better control of the DiCoMI system, but also for the optimisation of part designs. It is expected that innovative geometries and material combinations will feed into next-generation product design. The final stage of the DiCoMI project will involve developing new design guidelines for hybrid manufacturing that will be tested and verified by the industrial partners in the consortium. They will then be made available to the wider public in a downloadable format. This has the potential to revolutionise how designers approach and execute the design of composite parts.
Partners attending the first DiCoMI meeting
Participants at the MTeM-DiCoMI Conference, at Cluj-Napoca, October 2019
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