NEW TECHNOLOGY
How to help luxury car maker reduce weight
The Composite Centre at the University of Sheffield is installing a unique, high pressure press as part of a project to help luxury car manufacturer Bentley reduce weight

The Composite Centre at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is installing a unique, high pressure press as part of a project to help luxury car manufacturer Bentley reduce weight and greenhouse gas emissions.

The AMRC is working with Bentley, Sigmatex, Expert Tooling & Automation, Granta Design, Cranfield University and Wakefield-based production equipment specialist Group Rhodes as part of the Lightweighting Excellence (LX) programme, backed by the Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative.

Industry uses simple ‘preforms’ of composite material which are impregnated with polymer resin and cured to create composite material. These preforms are designed for low tack-time and production speed, but the resulting part uses more material than necessary structurally.

In order to capitalise on weight-savings offered by carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), the process strategy must be redefined. The project will look at the precision and tailored production of the preform material to achieve reductions in weight of component by up to 20 per cent.

This project seeks to find the middle-ground between automotive and aerospace, where the need for customisation meets high volume production, by the integration of flexible, automated material and manufacturing processes.

The AMRC will turn the optimised preforms of composite material into finished components in a new composite press. The press is currently being installed adjacent to the AMRC’s Factory 2050 facility on Sheffield Business Park, with production set to begin in 2017.

As part of the LX programme, the press will be completed by the development of an automated robotic cell by the AMRC and Expert Tooling & Automation. The cell will be used alongside the press for further industrial research into carbon fibre weaving and robotic placement technology used to make the preforms of composite material.

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Filed in: CAD,CAE,CAM, Moulding
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