Three-dimensional fiber composite components with intelligent surfaces – economically viable?
Cost-effective use of fiber reinforced composite (FRC) structures in the manufacturing processes of automotive and aerospace applications necessitates lower material and production costs. However, if the new materials are supplemented with additional functions, extra added value, along with structural integrity, can be created, which considerably enhances the attractiveness of fiber reinforced composite components.
Within the scope of the MAI Carbon Leading-Edge Cluster, the MAI Fo research project explicitly addresses the synergies arising from the combination of films and fiber reinforced plastic composite materials. The core element is the development of a process chain for the production of three-dimensional fiber reinforced composite components either with a film as the surface or with the surface partially covered with film. A process will be developed in which dry “fiber preforms” are packed and sealed with film. A suitable concept for impregnating the preform with resin will be examined. Moreover, another aim is to develop a new method for the local insertion of films into the production process. The special feature of using films on component surfaces lies not only in the process, but also in the possibility to integrate functions into the fiber composite structure. Since the film is directly applied as the matrix is curing, the usual subsequent surface treatment can be significantly reduced.
Figure: Structure of the subject matter of the project MAI Fo
Integrating the film in the process reduces the number of process steps and necessary auxiliary materials and aids. For example, the handling of dry fiber preforms and the creation of a vacuum system may be achieved in one step due to the multi-functionality of the film. In this regard, the foil serves as a carrier for sealing and for surface functionalization (e.g. for the painting process of a component). Ideally, post-processing of the surface is not required. The film can also be used to tailor the component to requirement-specific properties, such as scratch resistance, fireproofing, and UV protection. Ultimately, the overall objective is to reduce the costs of component production in order to further boost the competitiveness of leading German companies.