New Process Could Mean Cheaper Composite Structures

Researchers from the United States Council for Automotive Research's Automotive Composites Consortium (ACC) recently showed off a new manufacturing technique they say could lead to cheaper and quicker composite structures. Called P4 (programmable powder preform process), the technique involves choppers mounted on robots that spray short strands of glass fiber onto a screen to make a preformed shape. Once the preformed shape is made, it is lifted out and placed in a mold where the preform is injected with a liquid resin that solidifies to make a completed composite part. The ACC's P4 development work is part of a larger program aimed at lowering the cost and increasing the manufacturing rate of composites made by the liquid-molding process. Automakers have long wanted affordable structural composites that are light and can be formed into complex shapes. However, their high cost and long manufacturing cycle time have limited their use in the auto industry.

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