CIMComp EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub
Project: CIMComp EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Hub
Partners: University of BristolInvestment: £10.3 million
The Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub was created in 2016, following a multi-million-pound investment by the EPSRC. Its main goal is to engage academics from across the UK to deliver a step-change in the production of polymer matrix composites.
Led by the University of Nottingham and University of Bristol, the Hub has:
• 16 UK academic members,
• 23 international academic institutions
,• 47 industrial partners,
• 30 researchers, 120 EngD/PhD students trained, and,
• 4 High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres.
Over a seven-year period, the Hub will drive the development of automated manufacturing technologies that deliver components and structures for demanding applications in various sectors, such as aerospace, energy, transportation, and construction.
To achieve its vision, the Hub collaborated with industry partners to identify five research priority areas:
1. High-rate deposition and rapid processing technologies
2. Design for manufacture via validated simulation
3. Manufacturing for multifunctional composites and integrated structures
4. Inspection and in-process evaluation
5. Recycling and re-use
Each area has its own corresponding ‘Grand Challenges’, around which a series of projects are being conducted. So far, more than 30 projects have been funded by the hub, with 39 projected to be completed within the seven-year timeline.
NEXT generation methods, concepts and solutions for the design of robust and sustainable running GEAR
Project Name: NEXT generation methods, concepts and solutions for the design of robust and sustainable running GEAR
Project Partners: UNIFE (BE), KTH (SE), University of Huddersfield (UK), Politecnico Di Milano (IT), Lucchini RS Spa (IT), RINA Consulting Spa (IT), University of Leeds (UK), VTI (SE), TU Graz (AT), Universidad Nebrija (ES), Neat SRL (IT), Metro de Madrid (ES), Autoritatea Feroviara Romana (RO), Bercella (IT), Bosch Rexroth AH (DE)
Investment: €2.57m (€116k)
Funding Body: Horizon 2020, Shift2Rail
Timeline: December 2019 – February 2022
About: The NEXTGEAR programme commenced in 2019 with the University of Nottingham contributing primarily to Work Package 3-Wheelset of the Future. The main goal was to develop a lightweight railway vehicle wheelset, with particular attention paid to the axle. The motivation was to reduce track damage by minimising the unsprung mass.
A carbon fibre reinforced epoxy railway axle was designed that was 65% lighter than the existing, state-of-the-art, hollow steel axle. This axle featured a full-length composite tube, with thin-walled metallic collars adhesively bonded at either end as journal/wheel seats. The centre section was overwrapped to control deflection and for resonance tuning. Beyond the structural composite design, significant research on the bonded collar joints, non-destructive testing methods, ballast impact and dynamic response was conducted.
Thermoplastic in-situ polymeristion (TPIP) and double diaphragm forming (DDF) for moulding of complex parts at scale
Project: Thermoplastic in-situ polymeristion (TPIP) and double diaphragm forming (DDF) for moulding of complex parts at scale
Partners: University of Edinburgh
Funding body: EPSRC
About: With increasingly pressing sustainability goals in all sectors, thermoplastic composite manufacturing developments are timely. Low cost, low emission processes are needed to create recyclable components that meet stringent regulations. This project is a collaboration between the University of Nottingham (UoN) and the University of Edinburgh (UoE), bringing together UoE’s expertise in in-situ moulding with UoN’s expertise in forming, and builds on a previous feasibility study. Very low viscosity (~10 cP) monomers combined with double diaphragm forming (DDF) presents a novel opportunity to create huge thermoplastic structures, such as wind turbines or train body panels. DDF facilitates filling before forming; the initially flat reinforcement is easier to infuse due to more consistent permeability and the presence of the liquid provides lubrication to reduce inter-ply friction during forming. Furthermore, pot life can be extended through thermal control, as infusion can be undertaken at temperatures at which polymerisation rates are minimal, and no temperature cycling is required – polymerisation occurs below the final polymer melt temperature, so the component is immediately solid and no cooling step is needed.The recent feasibility study on integration of thermoplastic in situ polymerisation (TPIP) with DDF established the basic process, determining processing parameters and de-risking manufacturing. This successor project will run from October 22 to September 2023 to develop the technology to make parts with realistic geometries, using the new ‘tea tray’ DDF tooling at UoN in combination with a bespoke mixing system developed at UoE. It will demonstrate the ability to achieve effective forming using low viscosity resins and tie that to forming software developments and metrology assessment.
TexGen – Open-Source Software for Geometric Modelling of Textiles
About: TexGen, an open-source software developed at the University of Nottingham and licensed under the General Public License, provides a textile modelling platform for both academia and industry worldwide. It is a pre-processor for 3D modelling of textiles and textile composites and has been used by the Nottingham team as the basis of models for a variety of properties, including textile mechanics, permeability, and composite mechanical behaviour. It uses a kinematic modelling approach based on definition of yarn centrelines with variable cross-sections specified along the length. TexGen incorporates geometric features extracted from microscopy or micro-computed tomography (μCT) images of textiles, making the approach accurate for most textiles, and allowing quick generation of models without prior knowledge of the mechanical properties of the material. It has underpinned many research projects in the Composites Research Group, including the Breakthrough Aerospace Materials (BAM, 102368) project and New Manufacturing Techniques for Optimised Fibre Architectures (EP/P006701/1).There is a steadily increasing user base with nearly 57,000 downloads from 125 countries, including more than 6500 since the last release in March 2021, and there is an active user forum with nearly 1,000 members. TexGen has been integrated into other software such as the open-source software PuMA (Porous Microstructure Analysis) funded by NASA and TexGen4SC, a software for the design of composite materials.The TexGen project has been largely funded by EPSRC funding in collaboration with industrial partners, including an EPSRC Research Software Engineering Fellowship, two platform grants and the EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub