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12th November 2018, Stuttgart

AVK Innovation Award winners

At last week’s 4th ICC, AVK presented trophies to the winners of its 2018 Innovation Awards. © AVKAt last week’s 4th International Composites Congress held alongside the Composites Europe show in Stuttgart, Germany, AVK, the European Federation of Reinforced Plastics, presented trophies to the winners of its 2018 Innovation Awards.

These were awarded in three categories – Products/Applications, Processes and Research and Science.

CTC robotic gripper

The Innovative Products/Applications award was claimed by CTC (the Composite Technology Centre in Stade) and its cooperation partners Audi, Airbus, LaFT and Volkswagen for a new gripper system.

It has been designed to complement the Euro-Greifer tooling kit (EGT) – a universal, highly flexible robot gripper system curtrently made of aluminium and steel components. EGTs are used to position a variety of gripping or tensioning devices for automotive components, consoles and tools on almost every industrial robot, especially in body assembly.

For this conventional system, the consortium first developed a system made of aluminium combined with various carbon fibre reinforced sheet moulding compound (CF-SMC) connectors which can be integrated directly into the conventional system. The use of CF-SMC and long fibre reinforced FRP elements, which have been designed and adapted for the extrusion process, achieves weight reductions of between 15-25% depending on the overall gripper arrangement.

CTC robotic gripper. © AVKFully composite version

In a further development, a completely new modular gripper and assembly system kit has been developed which cuts the weight of the gripper systems by 40-60%. This consists of a pultruded carrier profile, the so-called X-profile (made of carbon composites with a multi-directional layer structure), various connecting elements made of CF-SMC, and a carbon composite outlet tube.

The all composite gripper system, is the first modular, high-performance production system of its kind and as a future industry standard, it is likely to be used cost-effectively by a significant portion of the German automotive and aerospace industries.

While the new gripper system allows companies to continue using standard industrial robots it offers much greater flexibility by allowing designers to increase the arm length or build production lines in a variety of ways.

Further advantages of the system include lower investment costs for new or redesigned production lines and shorter cycle times which increase productivity. These are made possible by the greater overall rigidity of the gripper systems and faster motion due to the use of different robot kinematic systems. The lightweight gripper system reduces the overall load and thus allows companies to use smaller industrial robots. This reinforces energy savings through more efficient kinematics and the reduced mass being moved by the robot. In addition, the composite gripper system improves material efficiency by reducing the amount of material required to make the robot itself – cutting energy consumption and pollution still further.

FlexReha process. © AVKFlexReha process

The AVK Innovative Processes Award went to Lausitzer Klärtechnik (LKT) and its partner Brandenburg University of Technology (BTU) for the development of FlexReha – a new, all-season structural repair process based on composites for legacy concrete pump shafts subjected to heavy wear .

There is an enormous need for efficient methods of rehabilitating pump shafts, especially for restoring their load-bearing capacity, in all seasons. Conventional methods are usually limited to coating the surfaces of these concrete structures with polyester resin-perforated textile layers containing styrene and thermoplastic polymer liners which have to be welded into the shaft – a difficult process. Rehabilitation of shafts with impaired load-bearing capacity usually requires costly and time-consuming excavation work.

FlexReha is a flexible technology which uses semi-finished products to rehabilitate these structures rapidly at any time of year. The new method cuts both costs and implementation time in half compared to conventional remediation procedures.

Leak detection

In addition, the integrated leak detection system offers active monitoring of the load-bearing structure of the shaft. This ensures that preventive repairs can be initiated as soon as the first damage is detected. This can prevent total failure of the structure and the associated expensive remedial measures as well as possible soil contamination.

The structure is first analysed with a 3D scan that provides the key data required to produce a customised and resource-optimised liner. A supporting sandwich construction based on glass fibre is then integrated into the damaged concrete pump shaft using a vacuum infusion process. To do this, a flexible, pre-fabricated dry semi-finished sandwich product is first introduced into the pump shaft together with auxiliary materials. Next, the area between the inner wall of the shaft and pressure balloon is evacuated using sealing elements. The liquid, thermosetting resin is then infused into the dry, semi-finished sandwich product from the bottom point to the top of the shaft cone using a traditional vacuum infusion process. Once the sandwich laminate has been cured, the pressure balloon is removed. This completes the repair. The shaft is now fully supported by the sandwich structure. The supporting structure is actively monitored by a permanent resistance measurement between two opposing conductor layers. These were already integrated into the semi-finished product during the manufacturing process.

The use of a highly chemical-resistant vinyl ester resin increases the service life of corroded or as new concrete shafts many times over. At the end of its product life cycle, the fibre-reinforced lining can be recovered for use as a recyclate or used as filler in the production of cement or asphalt, thus ensuring maximum conservation of resources.

RWTH hybrid glass yarns. © AVKHybrid glass yarns

The AVK 2018 Research and Science Innovation Award went to the Institute for Lightweight Construction with Hybrid Systems (ILH) at the University of Paderborn and the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH University of Aachen for a new type of hybrid yarn.

Currently, in the manufacturing process for thermoplastic fibre composites, the glass fibres and polymer are only combined during the consolidation phase. Here, the polymer has to cover a flow path of several millimetres into the glass fibre textile. This often requires a pressure of more than 100 bar, yet it fails to coat all the glass filaments with the polymer.

The interdisciplinary research team of engineers, process technicians and chemists from the Universities of Paderborn and Aachen has now integrated a variety of thermoplastic coatings for glass fibres into the spinning process itself. This makes it possible to increase the fibre content of the composites to more than 70% by volume. At the same time, it creates a protective sheath around the glass filaments which prevents them being damaged during consolidation.

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