The Innovate UK-funded TACOMA Project is working to develop next generation non-destructive evaluation (NDE) systems for carbon reinforced polymers (CFRPs) in the automotive industry.
As environmental issues promote the expansion of electric vehicle development in the automotive industry, there is a need to develop lighter materials solutions to reduce the weight of vehicles. Reduced weight increases both fuel efficiency and the battery range of electric vehicles, with each 100kg of weight saved reducing CO2 emissions by 20g/km.
CFRPs are the ideal solution to this weight reduction challenge, being one of the lightest high-strength materials in the world. However, there has been a historical problem with the cost of these materials as well as the labour intensive nature of manufacturing with CFRPs.
These challenges prevented high-volume use of CFRPs in the automotive industry, but as costs for automotive grade carbon fibre have dropped from £65 per kg ($35 per pound) to around £20 per kg ($12 per pound), there is a renewed growth in CFRP usage across the global automotive market. This increase is expected to equal a CAGR of 7.9% between 2018 and 2023.
With this increasing use, there is a need for faster and more efficient inspection of CFRP parts. NDE methods will be vital to achieving this and ensuring the integrity of any parts built using CFRPs, both in the manufacturing and after-market environments. However, no single NDE technique is currently ideally suited for quantitative measurement of all the various defect types.
The TACOMA project will deliver the next generation NDE systems for the CFRP automotive market, using advanced patented X-ray tomography technology, first developed for use in the medical sector. The patented “direct conversion” X-ray technology has also been demonstrated in high-speed applications in the food inspection sector. The TACOMA project will be used to adapt and further develop the technology for automotive parts and CFRP defects.