Discontinuous carbon fibre composites for automotive applications

Harper, Lee Thomas (2006) Discontinuous carbon fibre composites for automotive applications. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Increasingly stringent emissions targets are encouraging vehicle manufacturers to prioritise reduction of vehicle mass. The falling cost of carbon fibre is increasing the viability of lightweight carbon-based body panel systems across a broad range of production volumes. In the present work an automated process has been developed for the manufacture of random fibre preforms at medium volume production levels (30-50,000ppa).

This thesis seeks to understand the influence of key microstructural parameters on the mechanical and physical properties of carbon fibre laminates produced by directed fibre preforming. The principal parameters studied are fibre length, tow filament count and laminate thickness. A statistical process simulation has been developed to predict preform density variation and the results are compared with experimental tensile properties.

Experimental studies have shown that there is a notable reduction in areal density variation and consequently an increase in tensile properties with shorter fibres (115mm to 6mm) and thicker laminates (1.5mm to 4mm for a constant volume fraction). Shorter lengths improved preform coverage and gave higher tensile strength, whilst thicker laminates reduced the presence of unreinforced areas which cause stress concentrations. Tow filamentisation has been induced by pneumatic means to reduce the mean filament count and maximise the mechanical performance when using inexpensive, 24K bundles. By maximising the level of filamentisation both stiffness and strength can be increased by 20% and 45% respectively.

An analytical stiffness model is presented to predict the effect of tow filament count on the in-plane elastic constants. Filament count and out-of-plane fibre orientation distributions are determined from optical microscopy and are incorporated into a multi-level Mori-Tanaka based model. Predictions are within 8% of the experimental data for laminates containing large fibre bundles and 10% for laminates with highly filamentised bundles. An expression for critical bundle length has been developed for more accurate strength prediction, based on the number of filaments within the bundle. Experimental results confirm that the critical tow length is proportional to the tow filament count.

Directed fibre preforming has been benchmarked against other competing processes in respect of mechanical properties, weight saving potential and cost. A full-scale demonstrator component has been manufactured using a variety of carbon composite solutions, which can all provide 40 to 50% weight saving for an equivalent bending stiffness to steel and greatly improved dent resistance. Directed fibre preforming has shown great promise for both semi-structural and structural components for medium volume applications, particularly when aligned fibres are introduced. The results from this work can be directly scaled for industrial application to provide a cost effective, lightweight alternative to steel.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Warrior, N.A.
Turner, T.
Rudd, C.D.
Keywords: Composite, discontinuous fibre, preforming, carbon, automation, automotive
Subjects: T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering
Item ID: 10246
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2007
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2017 00:50
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/10246

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