Catapult project on the inspection of automotive composites


Composite materials are increasingly being taken up by industries seeking to exploit their low weight but high strength properties. The automotive sector has an interest in being able to more widely use carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) components in particular, as a means of saving weight and hence offsetting the mass of battery packs on electric vehicles, for example. While CFRP components are now widely used in aerospace applications, the inspection requirements of the automotive sector are different: the manufacturing routes do not feature autoclave processing, the geometric complexity of components is higher, part production volumes are much higher, but part costs and quality requirements lower. Inspection is likely to be focused on process development and confirming manufacturing process stability. In this project, a range of inspection technologies, including radiographic, electromagnetic, thermographic and acoustic methods, were used to inspect representative CFRP panel samples, in both preform and consolidated states. The most relevant inspection technologies for automotive CFRP applications were identified, laying the groundwork for increased usage of composite components in series production road vehicles.