New project to offer affordable lightweight carbon fibre

Carbon fibre part being overmoulded with plastic using Surface Generation's PtFS process - image courtesy of Surface Generation.
Carbon fibre part being overmoulded with plastic using Surface Generation's PtFS process - image courtesy of Surface Generation.

Advanced carbon fibre processing technology firm, Surface Generation has started work on an 18-month research and development project to produce affordable lightweight carbon fibre components for the automotive industry.

Backed by Innovate UK, Surface Generation is working with project partners to create enhanced automotive carbon fibre components, exploiting its patented PtFS production process to overmould long-fibre reinforced carbon composites with short-fibre thermoplastics.

Surface Generation has announced that it will develop manufacturing solutions for the production of coupons, sub-element components and demonstrator articles, designed to improve the performance of automotive.

Part of the Thermoplastic Overmoulding for Structural Composite Automotive Applications (TOSCAA) project, the consortium is led by SGL Carbon Fibers and also includes Jaguar Land Rover; Engenuity; LMAT; Nifco; The University of Nottingham, and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at the University of Sheffield.

To date, the project has attracted more than £2m in UK government funding for initiatives focused on making cars lighter and more fuel efficient.

The advanced manufacturing techniques developed by Surface Generation rely on its unique PtFS process, which uses active thermal management technologies incorporated in mould faces to adjust heating and cooling levels for each mould area and process stage in real-time.

PtFS is already reportedly being used by global automotive, aerospace and consumer electronics manufacturers to improve the quality and throughput of compression and injection moulding applications, and is expected to be further developed over the course of the project.

Chief executive at Surface Generation, Ben Halford explained: “The benefits of lightweight carbon fibre materials have been proven in Formula 1 and high-end supercars, but are often uneconomic outside niche user cases.

“Surface Generation’s PtFS technology will extend the capability of thermoplastic overmoulding, thereby delivering the functional benefits of carbon composites to a new class of cost sensitive automotive components.”

Surface Generation offers access to extensive R&D, test and commissioning facilities in Europe, Asia and North America. With the option of on or offsite running, users can process thermoplastics, thermosets, metals and glasses up to 850°C using its advanced PtFS systems in conventional or custom configurations.