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High-performance pultrusion for advanced composites

Ongoing

Project description

The pultrusion process is a cost-effective manufacturing procedure that has been developed to produce composite materials parts with a cross-sectional area consistency. It is a proven manufacturing method for obtaining high-quality Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) profiles with consistently repeatable mechanical properties. During the process, the fibres are impregnated with a resin and are pulled through a heated die where curing reaction takes place. Then, the pultruded part is moved with pullers and the finished profiles are cut to length by a saw at the end of the line.

Brunel Composites Centre (BCC) is involved in the HIPPAC project, which is part of the UK Research and Innovation with the number 105797. The consortium includes TWI Ltd, Exel Composites UK, ADVISE-DETA Ltd and BCC as part of the Brunel University London. Industrial need: There is an apparent need to increase the quality and size of wind turbine blades as the wind energy demand has grown vastly in the last decade. However, it is particularly challenging to maintain the cost and mechanical specifications of the structures when the size of the blades increases. Thus, the main driver is to design robust manufacturing technologies to produce lighter and stronger parts.

Innovation

HIPPAC's methodology will include the development of a dynamic model that will enable the design of a new manifold-die that integrates innovative monitoring and control solutions and a digital tool to optimise the design of the pultrusion line. In particular, spar cap will be the focus of this approach, as currently, it accounts for 30% of the blade's total cost. The use of pultruded carbon fibre composites can improve strength and weight and has an effect on the blades’ production cost, performance, and overall wind power generation price. The design of the line (pullers specification, line speed, kinematics for fibres orientation, etc.) will be modelled before implementation. These will provide the industry tools to considerably reduce line preparation time and to assess any part's profile manufacturability.

Objectives

HIPPAC aims to improve and facilitate the utilisation of the pultrusion process to develop new advanced composite profiles. The main objectives comprise the development and implementation of advanced digital tools combined with process control and monitoring. The improvements of the pultrusion process and enhancement of spar cap quality with regards to mechanical specifications and weight reduction will be utilised by HIPPAC’s approach.

In particular, the following aims were set:

  • Develop a digital tool to accelerate pultrusion die design and line set-up
  • Implement innovative process monitoring and quality assessment control solutions
  • Improve consistency and product quality
  • Improve strength 
  • Reduce cost

BCC Approach

HIPPAC’s digital tool will be adaptable to any available part profile in order to enable interactive use during the planning of the process. The geometries of the composite part and die are included in the suggested approach of the simulation problem. In this way, the thermochemical model that requires a description of the geometry and materials will be used to calculate the temperature distribution inside the part. The digital tool will allow the enhancement of part’s quality as the temperature distribution inside the die defines the final properties of the part through the resin cure.

Impact

The development and implementation of new advanced digital tools can increase turnaround, reduce wastage, and improve productivity and part properties. These tools will facilitate the accessibility to manufacturers and end-users in order to assess part’s performance more accurately prior to its implementation. In addition, digital tools are important to the UK manufacturing sector that supports digitalisation and aims to increase productivity. Not sure that is specifically a true statement so deleted it and replaced with. Hippac will assist offshore wind turbines and projects that are in line with the environmental impact and the UK industrial priorities.

This project has received funding from Innovate UK, as part of a UK-US partnership under grant agreement number 105797.


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High-performance pultrusion for advanced composites