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26th June 2017, Wiesbaden

Apple leaf miner inspires new processes for composite construction

SGL Group has delivered 104 km of Sigrafil 50k carbon fibres from its Moses Lake site in the state of Washington to the Institute for Computational Design at the University of Stuttgart for the construction of a pavilion made of carbon-glass fibre reinforced composites.

The company’s Sigrafil 50k carbon fibre is often used as basis for applications in the fields mobility and energy – from the automotive industry to aerospace, through to wind energy. The new generation of these large-tow fibres is ideally suited for automated production processes and already in use as standard in the BMW i3, i8, and the new BMW 7 Series, among others, the company reports.

Pavilion made of carbon-glass fibre reinforced composites. © SGL Group

The Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart are currently researching a novel production process for architectonic structures based on 50k fibres. An initial installation from the project can currently be seen on the University of Stuttgart’s inner courtyard. For this endeavour, SGL Group provided and delivered 104 km of carbon fibres to Stuttgart.

Focus of the project

The focus of the project is investigating natural biological construction processes of long span fibre composite structures. Serving as a model here were the larvae of the apple leaf miner moth (Lyonetia Clerkella), which spin cocoons on cherry and apple tree leaves using long threads of fibre.

Researchers at the ICD and ITKE, together with students of the master study programme ITECH, are now trying to apply this special technique to the construction of architectonic structures made of carbon-glass-fibre-reinforced composites and develop a new production process based for fibre composite constructions.

As carbon fibres are lightweight, a different approach becomes possible involving new production processes with multiple robot systems. © SGL Group

As carbon fibres are lightweight and have a high tensile strength, a different approach becomes possible involving new production processes with multiple robot systems that communicate with each other, precisely processing the fibres while handling high tension forces. This approach is said to enable a scalable production process for long span fibre composite constructions, as they could be used in architectural design in the future.

Stress test in practice

“In this case, we use the glass fibres purely as a formwork on which we apply the carbon fibres. Loads in parts subject to both tension and pressure are primarily transferred through the carbon fibres. With its long spanning cantilever form, this year’s pavilion places a special focus on the options offered by this material,” said Benjamin Felbrich, research assistant at the ICD.

SGL Group delivered 104 km of Sigrafil 50k carbon fibres from its Moses Lake site in the state of Washington to Stuttgart. © SGL Group

“For us as a company the continuous development of production processes of carbon fibres is an important topic, that’s why we are having a lively exchange with the project team at the University of Stuttgart. Furthermore, the construction of the pavilion is a stress test in practice for our fibre and demonstrates its’ unique characteristics,” commented Andreas Wuellner, Head of the business unit Composites – Fibers and Materials (CFM) of SGL Group.

www.sglgroup.com

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