The Automotive Composites Research Centre (ACRC) is a dedicated facility within WMG's Materials Engineering Centre. The Centre focuses on the development of carbon fibre reinforced composite manufacturing technologies for high volume automotive applications. The facility provides industrial partners with state-of the art, industrial scale composite processing equipment to carry out process development and demonstrations. This equipment is also the subject of further development to enhance the capabilities of the ACRC, particularly automation which is seen as an essential element of any high volume process.
The 1700 tonne Engel V-Duo press facility within the ACRC is ideally suited for thermoset composites prepreg compression moulding (PCM), sheet moulding compound (SMC) compression moulding and stamp forming of thermoplastic composites. In combination with the Hennecke Streamline 65 resin injection equipment the facility can also be used to study high pressure resin transfer moulding (HP-RTM). Fibre preparation facilities include a computer numerically controlled (CNC) 2 dimensional cutting table and a robotic pick and place cell for ply assembly. An automated fibre preforming facility is currently being specified and installation is anticipated in 2016.
Use of carbon fibre composite materials can deliver substantial weight reductions for components and structures whilst still maintaining high performance; this is a key strategic priority area for the automotive industry to meet challenging vehicle CO2 emissions targets. Combining high performance with low density, polymeric composites offer the ultimate lightweighting solution enabling:
- Single-shot manufacture of complex shapes
- Precise tailoring of performance to application
- Reduced environmental impact across the entire product lifecycle
The ACRC can provide the expertise and equipment for processing, testing and simulation. The characterisation and behaviour of composite materials under processing conditions can be carried out to enable material formability prediction and the manufacture of defect-free parts.
WMG's work in carbon fibre composite lightweighting forms part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult programme through which the Group works with partners to develop, refine and validate new solutions and introduce them into design and manufacturing processes.