Lightweight materials in vehicles are gaining steadily in importance due to their high, specific mechanical properties enabling them to rise to the challenges associated with future mobility. They provide an opportunity to reduce the automobile weight, thereby lowering energy consumption and simultaneously decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, the use of hybrid materials consisting of polymer composites and metals has the potential to meet the exacting standards required of mobility components such as vehicle pillars. The aim of the CIRCULAR-TP project is to develop cost-efficient lightweight materials and technologies that will enable the European automotive industry to manufacture lightweight solutions in existing production systems in the short to medium term.
The aims of the project are to ramp up the production of thermoplastic carbon or glass fiber composites as well as develop production facilities and processes permitting large-scale processing of these materials into multi-material components. The principal challenges are increases in the technology readiness level (TRL) of existing technologies and preparations needed for industrial implementation. The project consortium aims to raise the TRL from its current level of 5 to 8 by raising the robustness of the production processes and boosting material throughput.
The stand-alone PrePro®2D system developed at the Fraunhofer IPT enables near-net-shape laminates to be produced from thermoplastic, unidirectional tape. Higher productivity will be achieved via tailored consolidation and optimized heating technology: The layers of the composite material will be joined as required for the subsequent process steps, resulting in higher production speeds. The outcome of Automated Tape laying (ATL) will be the availability of laminates suitable for the production of fully consolidated components in the ensuing thermoforming operations. The main aims of Fraunhofer IPT activities within the CIRCULAR-TP project are to enhance the performance of PrePro®2D production machines significantly by deploying optimized heating techniques and make the process considerably more robust using techniques such as digital process monitoring.