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Three-step manufacturing process for lighter, cheaper and tougher composites

Chomarat Textiles Industries : 29 October, 2012  (Company News)
Chomarat has won a JEC Innovation Award in the carbon category thanks to C-PLY Bi-Angle, a carbon reinforcement allowing the production of composites 30% lighter than traditional carbon fibre composites.
Three-step manufacturing process for lighter, cheaper and tougher composites

Chomarat has developed C-PLY Bi-Angle in partnership with Stanford University (USA) Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics and Hanyang University (Korea) Department of Mechanical Engineering. It consists of an unbalanced thin ply bi-axial carbon reinforcement (non-crimp fabric or NCF) contributing to both weight and composite processing cost reductions. C-PLY Bi-Angle also delivers superior mechanical properties, offering new opportunities to create new composite possibilities from tubes and pipes across a wide range of industries.

It all started in October 2010 when Michel Cognet, Chomarat Group managing director, met
Professor Steven Tsai and Professor Sung Ha at JEC Asia. In this meeting came the idea to incorporate the new composite laminate they were developing into a multiaxial product form.

Chomarat accepted the challenge to convert a mass-production tool into an unique manufacturing process for a new range of multiaxial materials, and therefore committed to turning Professor Tsai’s theory into an industrial reality.

One year later, the first tests carried out on different processes (prepreg, pultrusion and resin film infusion) have met and exceeded the theoretical expectations. C-PLY is suitable for all lamination techniques, including hand lay-up, LRI, RFI, RTM, VARTM and prepreg. It can be used with all types of fibres, including carbon, E-glass, S2-glass and aramid.

The process includes:
- Spreading: achieving an individual ply weight of 75g/m² requires a skilled proprietary spreading
process consisting of laying the yarns flat and straight with uniform tension before spreading them to form a ply that is uniform in fiber dispersion, weight, width and thickness.
- Ply forming: performed on a multi-axial machine, but instead of laying down the yarns as in the
standard technique, UD plies are placed on top of one another in the desired directions. Obtaining
shallow angles (20-30 degrees) required the design of new machine kinematics.
- Combining: this final step ties the plies together and consolidates the fabric laminate. It is based on a very fine stitch designed to reduce the impact of foreign materials and the creation of voids to the largest possible extent.

The use of C-PLY with an asymmetrical construction (ranging from 20 to 30 degrees), results in laminate values that are impossible to achieve with unidirectional plies that have quasiorthotropic angles (0, +/-45, 90 deg).

American Artisan Bicycles is the first carbon bicycle manufacturer to use C-PLY BiAngle Carbon NCF to produce innovative carbon road racing bicycles in the USA. The carbon frames are under 800g without strength compromises, while maintaining excellent ride characteristics. It was publicly unveiled at the recent SAMPE 2012 Exposition in Baltimore, MD. The Artisan bicycle frame is thought to be the lightest painted, hand wrapped and tube-to-tube constructed frame in the world. “We are the only bicycle company in the world using C-PLY Bi-Angle NCF fabric, and it gives us a unique competitive advantage and the potential to build the world’s lightest and strongest road racing bicycles made in the USA. Our latest sub-700g carbon tube set (52cm frame) is proof positive: the ride quality of a C-PLY NCF built frame is also unlike anything else out there in the world. An experienced cyclist can feel the difference immediately, explained the company Founder and CEO John Eggers.

In addition to current composite applications in the consumer and sport recreational market, C-PLY Bi-Angle offers reductions in both weight and composite processing cost. The ongoing general market demand for weight reduction is related to both environmental and performance requirements worldwide in aeronautics and automotive sectors.

“The application range is expanding and developing, since it is now possible to produce C-PLY Bi-Angle from glass or glass/carbon hybrid, and to alternate thin and thick plies at angles as low as 20 degrees. The shallow angle capability gives composite laminates optimum performance: producing them is simpler, faster, and there are fewer ply placement errors,” said Philippe Sanial, Chomarat's R&D Manager.

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