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Volkswagen and Laser Zentrum Hannover develop automated CFRP processing

Volkswagen, Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH), and five other partners have developed laser processes for automatic trimming, drilling and repair of 3D carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components.

The HolQueSt 3D project, funded with €4 million by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, was focused on 3D high-power laser processing for automated manufacturing of CFRP structures. Automated processes are the basis for establishing series production of CFRP components.

The process developed by LZH uses a high-power disk laser from Trumpf Laser, with a pulse duration of 30ns and a maximum average output power of 1,500W. KMS Automation made the clamping devices, which are adapted to the features of laser material processing. An exhaust system to capture process emissions is directly integrated in the clamping unit.

‘Repairing three-dimensional CFRP components is presently very time-consuming and costly,’ explained Sven Blümel, project manager from the Composites Group at LZH. ‘We can now scarf components with curved surfaces with short process times, as a preparation for repair. Subsequently, the scarfed areas are closed with a so-called patch, an accurately fitting replacement part. This is an important step in increasing the lifetime of CFRP body parts.’ The concept for the repair steps was developed by the Institute of Polymer Materials and Plastics Engineering (PuK) of Clausthal University of Technology.

The Safety Technology Group of LZH investigated the emissions from the cutting and scarfing processes as part of HolQueSt 3D. Based on the composition of the emissions, Jenoptik, another project partner, developed a regenerative, continuously working, exhaust cleaning system that does not need additional filter material.

Applications have been the focus of the project HolQueSt. Volkswagen has accompanied the complete development process. ‘The successful completion of the project has brought us a step closer to series production,’ concluded Blümel.

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