An ultra-lightweight, carbon-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite door assembly is the winner of the 2022 Annual Merit Review Team Award presented by the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO). The design is the result of a collaborative effort among Clemson Composites Center, the University of Delaware, Honda, Proper Tooling, and Lanxess.
The project began in 2016 when Clemson University researchers began working on technology for fuel savings and energy efficiency to help vehicles meet US corporate average fuel economy standards with a grant from the DOE. With goals of achieving a significant weight reduction without compromising performance, as well as scalability for mass production and recyclability, the Clemson team engineered and constructed an ultra-lightweight, carbon-fiber-based thermoplastic composite door with Tepex thermoplastic composite sheet from Lanxess High Performance Materials (HPM).
After completing material testing, developing a crash material model, and designing the door, Lanxess HPM provided support to help optimize the design and developed a manufacturing concept with toolmaker Proper Tooling. The final design achieved a 45% structural reduction in weight, is 100% recyclable, and has 64% fewer parts to assemble while maintaining similar crash, durability, and noise-vibration-harshness (NVH) performance as the baseline steel door, according to predictive analyses. This innovative, lightweight solution enables a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, fuel efficiency, recyclability, and realization of a circular economy.
“With the strong partnership between Proper Tooling and Clemson, the project team was able to achieve a design that is drapable using the help of Lanxess’ proprietary draping code. This also helped us to develop a manufacturing strategy that is semi-automated with short production times,” said Pal Swaminathan, Business Development Manager for Lanxess HPM’s Tepex product line. “And, because of its woven nature, the Tepex dynalite material is similar to metal stamping in terms of ease of handling in the manufacturing process – with high strength, but low weight.”