Thermoplastic fibre-reinforced polymer composites (TFRPC) can be manufactured by using a variety of static or continuous methods. However, when it comes to the quality of the semi-finished products or components to be produced, these various technologies still need to be evaluated against autoclave manufacturing. The combination of vacuum and overpressure allows to produce high-quality composites serving as a reference, especially when assessing alternative process routes. The significant drawback of autoclave manufacturing lies in the comparatively long cycle times, the usually high proportion of manual labour involved in pre- and post-processing as well as in costly auxiliary materials. Furthermore, the desire for larger thermoplastic TFRPC semi-finished products and components necessitates larger facilities, resulting in higher investment volumes. To meet the demand for such thermoplastic products, efficient processes with high variability must be developed and established.
In AdaptiveS project, Leibniz Institute for Composite Materials GmbH (IVW) is collaborating with the project partner Fotoverbundglas Marl GmbH (FVG Marl) to develop a novel manufacturing unit for thermoplastic TFRPC. This unit is based on the LamiPress® technology developed and distributed since 2010 by FVG Marl, a specialist in composites glass production and custom machinery. Currently, the technology is designed for the process conditions required for the composites glass production, with a maximum process temperature of approximately 160 °C and a maximum process pressure of 1.2 bar. Within the project, the technology is being further developed to achieve temperatures of at least 250 °C and pressures of at least 3 bar, enabling the processing of technical thermoplastics. The newly developed production cell will be designed for a press table size of 1.5 m x 1.5 m, allowing for the production of large-area thermoplastic TFRPC structures. In addition to impregnating dry fibre structures, the consolidation of tape preforms is the focus of development. The use of a silicone film to apply a process vacuum allows for the production of thickness-variable thermoplastic TFRPC. The advantages of the technology lie in a relatively low required investment volume and its modularity, allowing for the construction of systems in sizes up to 3 m x 8 m. Furthermore, a process model for describing thermoplastic impregnation is being developed within the project. This model enables the determination of ideal process parameters in advance, depending on the material, in order to avoid production defects.
Thus, AdaptiveS project aims to develop an energy- and material-efficient technology with high variability for the impregnation and consolidation of both flat and thickness-variable thermoplastic TFRPC structures.
The project “AdaptiveS – Development of a Plant Technology for Thick-Adaptive Production of Continuous Fiber-Reinforced Thermoplastic Composites Structures” is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) based on a resolution of the German Bundestag (grant number KK5003709KU3).”