Automated spraying of carbon or glass fibre could soon provide the most economical way to create preforms in the manufacture of body panels for automobiles, heavy vehicles and other machinery.
Research headed by Bob Norris of the Polymer Matrix Composites Group in the US’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Metals and Ceramics are testing and advancing development of a programmable powdered preform process.
The robotically actuated machine sprays fibre and an adhesive powder binder substance to create fibre preforms. Resin is then injected in the mould and consolidated under pressure to create the final part.
The process is the first step in creating polymer composite structural and semi-structural auto panels that reduce the mass of composite automotive structures at a cost competitive with metal parts they are replacing. This results in lighter weight vehicles that are more energy efficient.
ORNL is working with the