2-D Forming of Low Cost Steered Fibre Laminates

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: College of Science and Engineering


By 2020, the advanced composite market is predicted to be worth around £17 billion, with automotive the second largest growth sector (after wind energy) but still falling far short of its enormous growth potential; the high cost of production for advanced composite products is still a major obstacle to their wider exploitation. Government legislation on the reduction of emissions is an important driver across the transport sector and one way to achieve prescribed targets is through the substitution of relatively heavy metallic components with highly optimised light-weight advanced polymer composite parts. Consequently, there is an urgent need to address the economic viability of manufacturing with advanced polymer composites and realise their full weight and fuel saving potential. The proposed project aims to contribute to this overarching goal by introducing an ambitious low-cost route to manufacturing highly optimised advanced composite structures.

The ability to produce 'steered-fibre laminates' containing non-linear fibre paths, creates a step change in the design space for advanced composite structures. The designer is able to reposition stress concentrations away from holes and inserts, improve a laminate's resistance to buckling and failure, and to enhance a laminate's dynamic response to vibrations. Ultimately this can lead to lighter, more optimised structures for use in the aerospace and automotive sectors, enhancing fuel efficiency and contributing to the broader goals of reduced cost and lower emissions across the transport sector. The aim of the proposed project is to implement and demonstrate a novel and disruptive manufacture process that can produce low-cost high-quality steered-fibre laminates, without use of expensive, capital intensive automated fibre placement machines (the current solution). The new process is best described as 2-D forming; in order to support this novel manufacture process, a custom-designed suite of computer aided design and manufacture software will be developed. Computational tools for digital manufacturing are essential if 2-D forming is to be successfully achieved without inducing severe wrinkling and buckling of the deforming biaxial sheet. Reducing cost will effectively bring fibre-steering technology to a broader range of applications, increasing its economic impact and bringing new manufacturing capabilities to a wider industrial base, with the UK leading the way in this important area of manufacturing.

Planned Impact

Various groups will benefit from the proposed research including:

1. Users of all products that make use of fibre-steering technologies: The research will facilitate reductions in cost of highly optimised advanced composite products and components, bringing advantages, such as light-weighting of products, better corrosion and fatigue resistance and improved energy absorption during impact, to a wider range of applications in sectors such as aircraft, automotive, rail, marine and energy. Reducing weight leads to lower energy consumption in automotive and aerospace and also reduces track maintenance costs for rail applications. These factors result in lower travel costs. The improved crash-worthiness associated with advanced composites over metals leads to safer travel. Reduced fuel consumption will help society meet targets for CO2 emissions and facilitate the move toward a low-carbon transport economy based on electric vehicles powered by renewable energy rather than by fossil fuels. Ultimately, the research will promote a greener more sustainable planet benefiting both the global society and the ecosystem.

2. Manufacturers working with advanced composites: End users are likely to be operating within the aero, space, auto and possibly the rail and energy sectors. Correct design at the drawing board is important in order to avoid an iterative and costly trial and error approach to perfecting mould designs and component properties. The growing trend for a 'get it right first time' philosophy facilitated by digital manufacturing means that more reliable and accurate computer aided engineering tools are required. The original and unique computational tools developed during the proposed project will contribute towards this goal.

3. Software houses developing commercial digital manufacture and structural optimsation software and their engineering user-base: The computational models developed in this project will be made available to a wide industrial audience via implementation as add-on software for mature commercial codes. Licenses for the add-on codes will be available to partner software companies who can supply the codes to their end-users or alternatively the codes developed in the project could be issued directly, licensed via the university or through a university spin-off company.

4. Suppliers of advanced continuous fibre reinforced polymer composites and resin systems: Lower manufacturing costs are ultimately passed on to end-users, reducing final product costs and increasing market share, leading to greater sales of raw materials.

5. Entrepreneurial potential: A university spin-off company specialising in both virtual and actual design and manufacture of steered-fibre laminates, using a range of advanced polymer composite materials may be initiated towards the end of the project, depending on interest generated following presentations at industrial trade shows (see pathways to impact).

6. The post-doctoral researcher: The researcher will receive advanced training and skills development in solid and computational mechanics as well as in composite manufacturing and experimental characterisation methods, such as stereo photogrammetry and structured light scanning. After the project the researcher will be in an excellent position to find employment in the composite manufacturing sector and beyond. The researcher will produce regular reports/papers/presentations for partners/conferences, enhancing their own transferable communication skills.


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Giorgio I (2018) Wrinkling in engineering fabrics: a comparison between two different comprehensive modelling approaches. in Proceedings. Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Harrison P (2021) Deep draw induced wrinkling of engineering fabrics in International Journal of Solids and Structures

Description So far we have discovered that manually sheared steered fibre hybrid laminates can in theory significantly improve the buckling resistance and strength of panels under in-plane compressive loading. We have also demonstrated a method of manufacturing the panels. These findings are about to be described in two journal papers.
Exploitation Route Design and manufacture of buckling resistant structures. We are currently examining a number of structures that might benefit from this fibre steering technology.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Transport

URL https://steerfab.wixsite.com/steerlam