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Automated production of lightweight CFRP engine hood in 15 minutes

The Composites Europe 2013 show in Stuttgart, Germany, this September 17-19 is set to feature many innovations, among the a new gap impregnation unit with innovative mold technology that will enable the automated manufacture of a vehicle engine hood made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in just 15 minutes.

The Composites Europe 2013 show in Stuttgart, Germany, this September 17-19 is set to feature many innovations, among the a new gap impregnation unit with innovative mold technology that will enable the automated manufacture of a vehicle engine hood made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in just 15 minutes.

The technology has been developed by the Institute of Plastics Processing (IKV, Aachen) in Industry and the Skilled Crafts at RWTH Aachen University. The mold comprises a mold frame and two mold halves. An integrated sensor technology is used for process and quality assurance. The combined fixing and ejection units allow double-sided impregnation of the preform, which means that complex sandwich parts can be produced in one process step.

IKV composite hood tooling
Gap impregnation unit in the IKV pilot plant for fiber-reinforced plastics seen with a mold for the CFRP engine hood.

IKV and its project partners have optimised the mold surface topography to such an extent that direct surface coating of the CRP engine hood is also possible. This is a major step toward efficient production, because it means there is no need to post-treat the part before applying the surface coating.

The new CFRP engine hood has curved contours and stiffening structures to improve the static and dynamic properties. The sandwich structure incorporates the necessary fixing elements In order to avoid the need for subsequent assembly of additional elements. With this fiber composite structure, the IKV team has lowered the weight of the hood by 60%, so that it now weighs less than 5 kg.

The Institute of Automotive Engineering (ika) at RWTH Aachen University initially designed the stiffness and crash properties of the engine hood by simulation. Special attention was paid to pedestrian protection. The research team subsequently determined the actual properties of the engine hood in suitable stiffness and crash tests.

The CFRP hood was developed in a joint research project as part of the Hightech.NRW project, which is sponsored by the Ministry for Innovation, Science and Research (MIWF) of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Alongside IKV and ika, the industrial partners involved in the project are Composite Impulse, Evonik Industries, Ford Research Centre Aachen, Henkel and Toho Tenax Europe. The machine technology was designed and manufactured in cooperation with Breyer GmbH Maschinenfabrik, and Singen and Hille Engineering GmbH & Co. KG (both located in Roetgen, Germany).

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