Volkswagen AG is working with Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) and other partners to develop a laser process for automated cutting of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the automotive industry.
If cars based on CFRP are to be mass produced, then automated production technologies for cutting the material must be developed. Conventional technologies such as milling or waterjet cutting have process-based disadvantages, such as high tool wear or handling of water and abrasives, which cannot be solved technologically.
In the current joint project HolQueSt 3D, seven partners from industry and science, under the leadership of Volkswagen AG, are working together on developing a process for 3-D high-performance laser processing of CFRP lightweight structures.
In comparison to conventional technologies, lasers can be used for non-contact, high-precision processing without tool wear, and simultaneously the process has high reproducibility and flexibility. Up to now, due to high temperatures, laser processing of CFRP causes damage in the processing zone. The main hurdles for using laser processing for CFRP are at present an incomplete understanding of the process, and the lack of sufficiently developed processes.
Based on a new, fibre-guided, high performance laser with pulse lengths in the nanosecond range (Trumpf Laser GmbH + Co. KG), LZH is developing both a process geared towards CFRP applications and an optimised process monitoring system. A further obstacle to the use of lasers in lightweight construction is the process-based generation of particles and gases, which are hazardous to health.
Together with Jenoptik Katasorb GmbH, LZH is working on a remedy, by finding a suitable method for treatment and filtration.In line with all the major car maker’s Volkswagen is exploring the use of composites to reduce vehicle weight. The body of Volkswagen’s two-seat diesel-electric hybrid car, the XL1, is largely made of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) (see: Volkswagen’s fuel-efficient XL1 makes its UK debut).