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Fraunhofer ICT and Fiberforge have started a strategic collaboration on R&D projects for various industries such as, automotive and aerospace, with Fraunhofer ICT installing a Relay Station 2000 at its thermoplastics research centre.
This will be the first Relay Station installation in Europe offering clients the ability to develop and demonstrate the production of thermoplastic advanced composite structures upward of 2 m x 2 m (80 in. x 80 in.) in size on a full-scale production work cell.
The Relay (Rapid, Efficient, Layup) Station creates tailored multi-ply preforms from unidirectional thermoplastic prepreg tape that can then be formed into a final part. Unidirectional tape combines a reinforcing fibre, such as glass and carbon fibre, with any of a variety of thermoplastic resin types, such as Polypropylene, Polyamide, or PEEK. Tailored blanks can be made with locally varying thickness and fibre orientation to maximize structural performance. The fully automated Relay Station reduces the labour intensity of advanced composite part manufacturing, thus expanding the commercial reach of these materials into higher volume markets and products. Tailored blanks can also be used as structural inserts in injection and compression moulded parts for cost and shape-stiffness optimized solutions.
“With its long history of innovation in thermoplastic composite processing, complementary partnerships with other firms, extensive capital equipment, and staff of industry-leading composite experts, Fraunhofer ICT was a natural choice for establishing a development and demonstration centre in Europe,” says David Cramer, Fiberforge’s Chief Technology Officer. “Through this new partnership with Fraunhofer ICT, we will be able to work more easily with customers to apply the technology in new products and in combination with other thermoplastic processing technologies.”
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Frank Henning, Deputy Director of the Fraunhofer ICT explains the benefit on the European side: “Fiberforge’s innovative tape layup process opens up new possibilities for producing thermoplastic advanced composite parts in a fast and automated process. Combined with our expertise in other thermoplastic processing technologies, Fiberforge’s Relay Station will expand our portfolio in the research and development of process technologies for fibre-reinforced plastics.”
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