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Addressing the Needs of Automotive Composite Inspection

Sun, 18 April, 2021

The TACOMA Project has been created to address composite materials inspection needs for the automotive industry in support of greener transport options.

US and European emission standards are promoting a move by the automotive industry to increased light-weighting of vehicles. Each 100kg saved in weight creates a 20g/km reduction in CO2 emissions, offering clear environmental benefits.

In the past, much of the focus of vehicle light-weighting relied on the use of aluminium. However, even lighter materials are now required to satisfy the demands of new regulations, leading to the development of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) composites for automotive use.

Despite the cost of manufacturing CFRP parts having dropped over the past decade, the high volume production of CFRP parts of sufficient quality remains a significant challenge.

Part of this challenge relates to ensuring the integrity of the parts due to the properties of composites. While metals are mostly isotropic, continuous fibre composites have a high level of anisotropy and variations textile weaves can alter the properties of a composite when created by vacuum infusion of epoxy into a carbon fibre fabric. Additional challenges arise when a complex foam or honeycombed cored laminate structure is covered with a fibre-reinforced polymer matrix sheet, where subtle damage can leave few if any visible traces on the material surface.

As a result, there is a need for reliable, rapid, simple and low cost non-destructive evaluation techniques for carbon fibre composite vehicle parts. This would help ensure the integrity of materials, both during manufacture and after-market.

The TACOMA Project is working to solve these challenges through the development of patented X-ray tomography technologies to detect defects at high speeds suitable for a manufacturing environment.