New manufacturing processes for thermoplastic composites

The ZE-KONP project, led by GAIKER, seeks to develop sustainable and intelligent manufacturing processes for new generation thermoplastic composites

The GAIKER Technology Centre, a member of the Basque Research & Technology Alliance, BRTA, is leading the ZE-KONP project, whose main objective is to advance in the development of manufacturing and forming technologies for functional thermoplastic composite structures, reinforced with continuous and discontinuous fibre, to generate new products with high added value.

One of the priorities for decarbonisation is the reduction of vehicle mass. To achieve this reduction, composites and advanced design optimisation methods are key. However, when implementing these composite materials on an industrial level, it is necessary to reduce costs and make progress in two main areas: on the one hand, in the development of new manufacturing processes to make them more productive, reliable, sustainable and flexible, and on the other hand, in improving the use of materials, making optimised designs using advanced modelling/simulation techniques and recyclable materials.

Thermoplastic composites are an excellent alternative to thermoset composites and sheet metal. However, their implementation in the market requires overcoming some limitations associated with their processing. To this end, the ZE-KOMP project (2022-2023) will work on the development of optimised and reliable manufacturing processes, on improving the sustainability of these processes from an environmental and cost point of view, and on manufacturing rates.

Throughout this research, the composition of materials, the implementation of sensors in the process, the topological optimisation of products, the modelling and simulation of processes, the obtaining of hybrid structures by combining manufacturing technologies such as tape-laying, 3D printing and overmoulding by compression or injection will be studied. In addition, activities related to the end-of-life analysis of products and processes will be carried out.

Funded by the Basque Government within the ELKARTEK programme, the ZE-KONP project consortium is made up of eight agents from the RVCTI (Basque Science, Technology and Innovation Network), all of them with extensive experience in the field of thermoplastic materials and their composites and experts in their respective lines of work.