Fiber Reinforced Plastics

Fiber reinforced plastics (FRPs) refer to materials that consist of a matrix with embedded fibers. Thermosets are used as matrix materials at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials IFAM. The advantages of FRPs are their high stiffness in the direction of the fibers combined with the ability of the matrix to be shaped. These advantages, along with their low specific weight, mean FRPs are ideal for lightweight components such as those used for aircraft and car manufacture.

In all areas of transport – cars, rail vehicles, ships, and aircraft – new materials and lightweight design are resulting in lower fuel consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and hence resource friendly and environmentally friendly mobility. In the area of renewable energy, and in particular wind energy, FRPs are opening up energy-efficient construction methods and are improving the profitability of wind turbines. Lightweight design at Fraunhofer IFAM is particulary concerned with fiber reinforced plastics containing glass, carbon, and natural fibers. The expertise ranges from resin development, design, component manufacture, and surface modification to automated assembly as well as joining technologies.

The first task is the selection or development of suitable resin systems to meet the specific requirements of the manufacturing process such as low curing shrinkage and rapid curing. Challenges such as electrical conductivity, lightening protection, and impact resistance are also addressed. Only by customization of the interfacial properties between the fibers and matrix resin can an optimal material system be used. This is achieved using a range of surface techniques, including plasma treatment of fiber surfaces. Surface modification is also vital for the manufacture and further processing of the components. Techniques worthy of mention at this juncture are cleaning, activation, coating, and the application of functional layers.

The growing industrial use of FRPs necessitates increased automation of assembly and joining technologies – this is a further field of expertise of Fraunhofer IFAM. With the help of optical measurement techniques, shape and positional adjustments can be made to both small and large components to enable precision machining using robots.

Quality assurance is an absolute must in all phases – namely during the manufacture, assembly, and repair of FRP components. This is aided by Fraunhofer IFAM‘s comprehensive range of training courses. The training courses are a means of technology transfer, whereby technological findings and methods are passed on to industry.

 

Automation and Production Technology

 

Adhesives and Polymer Chemistry

 

Chemistry of Fiber Composite Materials

 

Workforce Qualification and Technology Transfer