Automotive Composites Get A Boost From New Predictive Engineering Tools
Government-industry-academic consortium develops engineering software to predict mechanical properties of long-fiber thermoplastic composites.
Adoption of weight-saving polymer composites in auto body structures will be made easier with new predictive engineering software. The development effort behind it was led by researchers at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., along with industry and academia. Other key players were PlastiComp, Winona, Minn., a specialty compounder of long-fiber thermoplastics (LFT); Toyota; modeling software supplier Autodesk; tier one molder Magna; and university researchers from Univ. of Illinois, Purdue, and Virginia Tech.
PlasticComp provided 30% long-carbon-fiber PP and nylon 66 materials and molded sample plaques that were used to evaluate fiber orientation and length attrition during injection molding. Also, some of the algorithms used by Autodesk’s software were updated to better model long-carbon-fiber orientation in computer-aided analysis of design concepts to predict performance properties.
The degree to which molded parts shrink as they cool is largely dependent upon the composition of the material being processed.
After molding, acetal parts can continue to shrink at room temperature and even in the cold.
Plastics weigh in with added design freedom and environmental friendliness—especially when the alternative is lead.