06/04/2017

TAPAS PROJECT

The Tapas project will study the feasibility of a new manufacturing process for continuous-fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite structural parts that would enable high-throughput manufacturing of parts with complex geometries for medium- to large-batch markets (transportation).

ANR (French National Research Agency) MatetPro Project, launched in February 2012, duration 53 months.
Certified by: Axelera, Moveo, EMC2.

CHALLENGES

The potential of continuous-fiber reinforced organic matrix composite materials for structural applications has been confirmed. The use of thermoplastic matrices is a major benefit in terms of reducing environmental impacts (no VOCs or solvents), crash-test performance (intrinsic ductility), and recyclability. Thermoplastic composites provide a response to the demand for lighter-weight structures, especially in the transportation industry where environmental regulations and energy-savings requirements are increasingly stringent. However, the use of these materials must overcome a major hurdle—economically-viable manufacturing processes for parts with complex geometries—if they are to be used more widely for medium- to large-batch applications.

OBJECTIVES

Over the past several years, much R&D work has focused on materials and processes that would allow composite parts with complex geometries to be manufactured from thermoplastic. The Tapas project examined direct processes and, specifically, resin-transfer molding (TP-RTM, TP-CRTM), a low-pressure closed-mold injection technique. The project resulted in the validation of a new non-reactive manufacturing process for composite thermoplastic parts. The advance was made possible by the development of high-fluidity thermoplastics with very permeable fiber reinforcements. To meet the required performance specifications, specific polymers were developed and the compatibility between the polymers and fiber reinforcement was enhanced to ensure an excellent compromise between permeability, drapability, and mechanical resistance. Implementation of the material was also studied using simulation, modelling, and lab experiments.

PARTNERS

Solvay (lead), Hutchinson, Isojet Equipements, Techni-Modul Engineering, CNRT Caen, GeM (ECN), LTN (Polytech’Nantes), LaMCOs (INSA Lyon).

RESULTS

Consolidating sandwich-type materials requires technologies developed specifically for the unique processes and other particularities of thermoplastic polymers. The Tapas project demonstrated feasibility in the lab leading to the design and production of instrumented, laboratory-grade RTM equipment with a low-pressure injection unit and a high-temperature (400 °C) mold. New polymers (PA 66 polyamide) were developed to provide a good compromise between fluidity and mechanical performance. Reinforcements with a new uni-directional woven architecture were developed to provide high permeability without compromising the material’s mechanical properties. The lab manufacturing process was used to manufacture composite sheets at impregnation speeds of 10 mm to 13 mm per minute. A functional PA66/carbon 3D part (prototype) was manufactured using a mold and vertical press. The results of the project were presented at several national and international conferences and several articles have been or will be published in scientific journals.

 

A new project, Increase (backed by the French Single Interministerial Fund’s 20th round of funding), will pursue the work initiated under the Tapas project. Increase will develop a pilot thermoplastic compression resin transfer molding (TP-CRTM) manufacturing process for complex composite parts. The process will represent a major breakthrough in composite materials development.

 

The Tapas and Increase projects were completed in part at the Axel’One innovative materials platform.

 

Composite materials can be used in a wide range of industries, from automotive and truck to aeronautics and sporting goods.