Development of a process-automated, flexibly shaped tool for the production of CFRP components

In view of the contemporary trends towards saving energy and resources by building with lightweight materials, a potential solution lies in the use of components made from carbon fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP). The significance of this field is demonstrated in a study by Roland Berger/VDMA [1]: according to the study, the demand for CFRP components is expected to rise annually by 17% until 2020. To allow components to be produced more cost-effectively, the process costs must be reduced by around 40% within the same period.

The conventional process for producing CFRP components requires the construction and assembly of laminating equipment, which is based on the 3D geometric data of the component to be produced, therefore creating workpiece-specific machines. This means that, as far as the number of items to be produced per form is concerned, the costs per item are high when quantities are small (small batches, prototype building). As well as a long lead time, these “rigid” machines also give rise to high demand and consumption of resources (materials, energy, personnel, etc.), due to the production of the required moulds.

This is why the FlexForCFK research project focuses on the use of “flexible” laminating units: The modifiable shape (end-contour is formed by an extendible plunger) results in the removal of the fixed assignment of workpiece to tool; the required tool form (laminating unit) can be adapted directly to the workpiece, without requiring conventional manufacturing processes (machining or non-machining manufacturing). The desired mould geometry is controlled directly from 3D CAD data. Unlike conventionally cut CFRP components, this is intended to reduce the amount of mould material to a bare minimum. 

Übersicht zum Projekt FlexForCFK

The aim of the project, which is to be allocated to the “Climate/Energy” demand field within the scope of the German Federal Government’s designated 2020 high-tech strategy, is to establish a resource-saving process; one which will minimize the costs associated with energy, materials, personnel, time, and recycling, which are required by all existing processes for the conventional production of moulds.

[1] Roland Berger, pub. VDMA: Serienproduktion von hochfesten Faserverbundbauteilen. Perspektiven für den deutschen Maschinen- und Anlagenbau [Batch production of high-strength fibre-composite components. Perspectives for mechanical and plant engineering in Germany]. Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, 09/2012.