Fiber-reinforced Plastics and Laser System Technology

Our competencies in the field of production machines include the development of special-purpose machines for high-performance materials and laser systems. We develop production machines for composite engineering and advance the automation of fiber-reinforced plastics processing. With our expertise in laser system technology, we optimize conventional production systems and machines for applications such as sheet metal working via modular laser system upgrades.

Our research and development in these fields focuses on the following areas:

Fiber-reinforced Plastics

Fiber-reinforced Plastics in Medical Engineering

Laser System Technology

Fiber-reinforced Plastics Engineering

The outstanding mechanical properties and the low density of fiber-reinforced plastics (FRP) are propelling them into the engineering spotlight. FRP is the material of choice in many sectors of industry where excellent mechanical properties in conjunction with low mass are required.

System and Process Development for Processing Tapes and Prepregs

One of the priorities of our research activities is the development and optimization of production machines for tape, prepreg and fiber placement as well as for winding. We apply our expertise in special-purpose machinery to develop customized production systems, meeting all the FRP production requirements of our clients, from design and construction through commissioning and certification of customized, ready-to-use tape laying, fiber placement and winding systems.

Over many years of experience in dealing with a wide range of materials, semi-finished products and processes, we have accumulated extensive knowledge and expertise in advanced composite engineering. We process thermoplastic and thermoset semi-finished products as well as dry-fiber rovings with binder and produce tailored components via local reinforcement. Furthermore, we design components made of a range of FRP materials and produce the corresponding prototypes. In individual studies we evaluate the quality of components and laminates and benchmark your materials in comparison with others.

Gripping and Handling Systems

Textile and non-rigid semi-finished products are hard to handle – a key challenge for the automation of the FRP production. We address this challenge and conduct research into technologies for the adaptive, damage and deformation-free pick-up and deposit of non-rigid, flat textiles as well as into the handling of warm blanks during the forming process for example.

We draw on our knowledge of processes and systems to enhance gripper kinematics and gripper mechanisms. The octopus gripper and the electrostatic gripping system are examples of these. We customize and implement these technologies to meet the requirements of your industrial application – including design and validation of the entire process chain.

Multifunctional Thermoforming

Continuous fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite sheets, often referred to as composite blanks, can be processed under the application of heat in forming processes. We optimize thermoforming processes for the production of open structural parts and free-form surfaces. Our thermoforming processes permit the integration of additional functional components, trimming during the forming process as well as the forming of locally reinforced structures.

Our expertise covers the entire process chain: Starting with the manufacture of the thermoplastic composite laminates, through tool building to the finished, formed part – including plant development, integration within existing press systems and process automation.

Molding Tools for the Production of Fiber-reinforced Components

Over many years of research in the field of FRP production and tool design, we have acquired considerable expertise in the construction of molding tools. We develop and optimize tools for different FRP processes and materials. Among other specialties, we design tools for the production of thermoset FRP components in resin transfer molding (RTM) applications or for thermoplastic production processes, such as multifunctional thermoforming. One of our core areas of expertise is energy-efficient tool heating for isothermal or variothermal processes. In addition to optimizing conventional tempering methods, we develop new methods, such as induction tool heating.

Fiber-reinforced Components for Machine Tools

Fiber-reinforced components deliver unrivalled performance in terms of dynamics, rigidity and temperature stability. With our expertise in the field of production machines, we develop customized fiber-reinforced components for high-performance machines and permit single fiber-reinforced components, such as axes and spindles, to be integrated into existing, conventional systems.

Market and Technology Studies on Composites

We collaborate with our clients to find answers to questions related to the selection, design and assessment of the FRP component manufacturing processes. In addition to providing technology assessments, investment consultation services and conducting feasibility studies, we also carry out market studies in order to give you an overview on the state of the art thereby providing a firm basis for informed decision-making.

Fiber-reinforced Plastics in Medical Engineering

In medical engineering fiber-reinforced plastics offer a valuable alternative to metals: They are selected in cases where metals cannot be used due to their electrical conductivity but in which there are exacting requirements in terms of mechanical properties or of increased functional integration.

MRI-compatible Micro Profiles for Minimally Invasive Surgery

Our micro-pultrusion and mirco-pullwinding processes permit fiber-reinforced plastic profiles with a diameter smaller than 500 µm to be produced. Minimally invasive medical instruments such as puncture needles or guide wires can be manufactured in these processes. In contrast to metal profiles, these instruments are both compatible with and safe in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) due to their electrical properties.

Our services include the development of machine systems and processes as well as the development and setting up of special purpose machines. We also design, develop and produce minimally invasive MRI-safe and MRI-compatible FRP instruments on behalf of our clients.

Laser System Technology

The integration of laser systems into conventional machine tools enables extended functionality, higher production flexibility, a vertical range of manufacture as well as reduced lead times for the production of complex components.

Laser Hardening of Sheet Materials  

Laser beam hardening in a progressive or transfer tool enables the cost- and energy-efficient production of functionalized components in large quantities. Highly loaded functional surfaces are heated to a defined temperature by a focused laser beam in the machine clock and selectively hardened by subsequent heat conduction into the surrounding cold volume. As a result, separate oven processes can be replaced and thus rework costs can be reduced.

The Fraunhofer IPT has many years of experience with laser integration in progressive tools. We offer research and development activities for system as well as for process design of the tool integrated laser hardening, taking the overall process chain into account.

Micro Spot Cladding

Component surfaces made of low-cost materials are often coated with precious metals in order to locally functionalize the components, e.g. electronical contacting. The Fraunhofer IPT develops an innovative approach that enables local coating of sheet metal materials in a stamping and bending process chain for the first time.

We use precious metal micro-wires for the coating which have a diameter of less than 100 µm. They are melted little by little, using laser radiation. By transferring the base material into a molten state, it produces a firmly bonded connection between base material and filler material is produced. Micro spot cladding replaces the environmentally harmful and costly galvanic process that was previously used.

Laser-assisted Milling

In the laser-assisted milling process, the materials are locally softened by laser-induced heating before the cutting process. This enables a reduction of tool wear when machining high-strength materials. Fraunhofer IPT has developed a system in which the laser beam is guided through the spindle and the tool directly in front of the tool blade. We examine the potential of laser-assisted milling for your machining application in feasibility studies and develop spindle tool systems with integrated laser beam guidance for.

Laser-assisted Sheet Metal Working

The laser-assisted sheet metal working cancels the current process limits of the conventional super high strength alloys process by local heating in the areas of the critical shear and forming zone. These advantages concerning component quality and workability could be proved for every sheet metal working approach in the series including shear cutting, bending, stamping and deep drawing. Furthermore, the flexible and precise heat input by laser radiation enables local heat treatment in machine clock.

We conduct feasibility studies and develop laser-assisted sheet metal working systems tailored to your applications.

Laser Roughing of Diamond Tools

With our laser processing approach, we are able to replace the roughing process of conventional grinding with laser ablation. Thereby we reduce the processing time and tool wear in the production of diamond tools significantly. The majority of the material allowance required by the manufacturing process is removed swiftly by laser roughing. The high surface quality of diamond tools, which is often needed, is achieved in the subsequent finishing by conventional grinding. We carry out preliminary tests and develop individual customized laser roughing systems for the production of diamond tools.