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Rapid Prototyping Manufacture of Structurally Efficient Short Fibre Composite Materials

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A vast variety of techniques are readily available to design and fabricate uniform, structural components via rapid prototyping (RP) manufacture. Still, no means are currently available for the additive layer processing of fibre reinforced polymer composites. Here, difficulties arise from the use of continuous fibre strands, strongly indicating the need for structurally improved discontinuous fibre composites.

As RP technologies fast emerge, significant interest is being regained in the effective placement and alignment of short fibre reinforcement entities. Reasonably good alignment properties can already be achieved using plain electric and magnetic fields, however, these allow only for nematic phases to be formed. Additional control is needed over discontinuous reinforcement distributions in order to achieve both increased structural efficiency and growing flexibility in the processing of composite components. As seen in many biological systems, the functional arrangement of fibrous reinforcements, for instance, is commonly associated with outstanding mechanical characteristics and structural performance. The use of short fibre reinforcements further allows for more intricate geometries to be designed: structural details, such as curved surfaces, cut-outs, corners, overhangs, and holes are easier to deal with, while manufacturing impurities and defects – including fibre waviness, wrinkling and bridging – can be minimised. Besides, engineered reinforcement across all three spatial dimensions is thought to decrease composite susceptibility to impact damage, wear, longitudinal microbuckling, delamination, and fatigue.

The main objectives of this work are to investigate ultrasonic assembly as a process for the manufacture of short fibre reinforced composite materials, and to explore the range of fibre architectures that can be formed using this technique.

Associated publications:

M.-S. Scholz, B. Drinkwater, and R. Trask, “Ultrasonic assembly of anisotropic short fibre reinforced composites,” Ultrasonics, vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 1015–1019, 2014.

Conference contributions:

MRS Spring Meeting & Exhibit, 2013
Presentation – Rapid prototyping manufacture of structurally efficient short fibre composite materials

IOM3 Younger Member’s Committee Research & Innovation, 2013
Presentation – Ultrasonic assembly of anisotropic short fibre reinforced composites

IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium, 2014
Presentation & poster – Ultrasonic assembly of short fibre reinforced composites