Development of hybrid compounds for compression moulding for structural composites

Academic Institution: University of Edinburgh

Academic Supervisor: Dr Francisca Martínez Hergueta

Industry Partner: Williams Advanced Engineering Limited

PhD Student: TBC

Start Date: January - March 2020


Composite materials are a growing UK market that expects to reach £3 billion in 2030 in aerospace, automotive and defence sectors (Composites Leadership Forum, 2016). Composites are lightweight materials with outstanding specific strength and stiffness that dramatically reduces the vehicle weight, fuel consumptions and emissions, making a very explicit causal chain, from excellent mechanical properties to reduce fuel/CO2 production, a key feature of the EU environmental policies (Clean Sky, 2017). However, high manufacturing costs are one of the main restraints on increased composite deployment.

This project aims at increasing the technology readiness level of novel hybrid compression-moulded composites that will allow for shorter production timelines while still retaining outstanding mechanical properties and energy absorption capacity. Hybrid moulding compounds combine unidirectional, discontinuous and nonwoven composites improving the drapability with respect to conventional unidirectional laminates, allowing the manufacturing of components with complex geometries and high stiffness for structural applications. Despite these advantages, the high number of defects and low repeatability of the manufacturing process result in a dramatic scatter in mechanical properties that hinders their use in primary structural applications. Optimisation of the compression moulding method is, therefore, a high priority.

Main objective of this project is to determine the influence of processing parameters on the final mechanical performance of the laminate in order to optimise the manufacturing method. The project will comprise a comprehensive study of the structural performance at different length scales and will encompass composite manufacture, testing, characterisation and computation modelling. Parametric studies to evaluate the influence of, amongst other things, material properties, fibre orientation, and manufacturing processes on the final behaviour of the material under investigation will be undertaken. Physical findings will be used to develop a numerical tool able to predict the mechanical response and catastrophic failure of structural components manufactured by this technology.