Project: Cost Effective Laser Cutting Of Thermoplastic Composite Materials For High Performance Applications

Endless carbon fibre reinforced composites (CFRP) have already shown their great lightweight construction potential in many applications. Hence, CFRP is of high interest for all branches of industry where either large masses have to be moved or weight has to be saved. Besides the field of mobility, with the huge sectors aircraft, automotive and marine, and the increasing field of energy, e.g. wind turbines, pipelines and off-shore applications, CFRP is also playing an important role in the fields of sports and leisure, lightweight equipment and medical engineering [MAR09, SPR10, STR07]._x000D_CFRP is characterized by high stiffness and strength, excellent corrosion resistance as well as high static and dynamic loading. An outstanding property of CFRP can be found within the potential of significant weight reduction compared to metallic materials, e.g. up to 30% for aluminium [CFK09]. Within the next few years the global demand of carbon fibres and CFRP will increase with growth rates higher than 10 % per year [CCE11]._x000D_The trend for lightweight structures consisting of CRFP with the focus on economic and ecological issues requires the use of thermoplastic resins combined with automated preparation techniques and series production. These will play an important role for the uptake of carbon fibre composites [SHE09, BIE08]. If the manufacturing processes can be addressed then an increasing demand for thermoplastic composites (TPC) is expected. Compared to thermoset systems, thermoplastics offer several benefits such as uncritical and unlimited storage time, excellent chemical resistance and quick forming process availability. Thermoplastic matrix materials are recyclable and in comparison to thermoset matrices, they have the advantages of a better impact tolerance and most important their weldability [WIJ11, OFF11]._x000D_A current barrier for a comprehensive dissemination of TPC structures is the lack of economic, quick and reliable component manufacture processes. The possibility to cut TPC within fully-automated process chains with a constant quality and the required delivery rate at the same time is necessary to establish TPC in industries such as aerospace and automotive [OFF06, PUR07, KEL04, JAE09a]._x000D_The number and variety of thermoplastic matrices and TPC laminates complicate the determination of the best process strategies and process parameters in order to achieve the desired results. Today, cutting and trimming operations used for CFRP parts are COly based on mechanical cutting techniques, e. g. sawing, milling, or grinding and abrasive water jet cutting, revealing respective advantages and disadvantages [HU04, DAV05, MOE07, MAC05]. _x000D_Despite the fact that lasers, as thermally acting tools, may influence the fibre-matrix-structure, laser cutting using appropriate laser sources offers many advantages, such as no wear, no moisture uptake and highest feed rates. However, due to the different heat conduction properties of the matrix and the reinforcements, laser cutting could partially modify the structural properties of CFRP [JAE9b, HER08, GOE10]._x000D_For this reason, it is the aim of this project to develop a user matrix for TPC laser machining which will enable the manufacturer to benchmark the applicability of different laser sources with the intention to guarantee the compliance to material specifications required by the end user._x000D_Within the project the influence of different processing strategies and process parameters on the achievable cutting quality will be determined as well as the correlation with material properties in order to define the benefits and limitations of each process. In order to achieve these goals, a project working plan has been developed with the following objectives:_x000D__x000D_- Determine the influence of material characteristics and process parameters on achievable cutting quality and corresponding material properties_x000D_- Simulate the influence of heat conduction and mechanical properties of the performance of the materials and components_x000D_- Apply the appropriate process parameters and machining strategy on prototype structural parts supplied by end users_x000D_- Perform cost-benefit analysis to balance production rate and cost savings against performance of the materials and structures according customer needs_x000D__x000D_A focused consortium has been brought together covering all subject areas that are essential for the fulfilment of these objectives. The consortium consists of two R&D performing SME´s operating within the fields of material testing (MERL) and laser processing (LASER on demand) and a non-university research institute (LZH) specialised within the field of laser technology and process development. An industrial advisory group has also been formed consisting of aerospace end users and system suppliers as well as a material supplier who will provide material for testing as well as real structural parts for application of the process technology later in the project. This will provide a specific focus._x000D_

Acronym CO-COMPACT (Reference Number: 7500)
Duration 01/12/2012 - 31/12/2015
Project Topic The comprehensive goal of the project is to develop a user matrix providing detailed information regarding the applicability of different laser sources for the machining of continuous carbon fibre reinforced thermoplastics, ensuring the compliance of material specifications required by the end user.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 8

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
3 LASER on demand GmbH Coordinator Germany
3 Laser Zentrum Hannover e. V. Partner Germany
3 Element Materials Technology Hitchin Ltd Partner United Kingdom