WMG helps develop lightweight structures

Posted on 13 Jun 2019 and read 549 times
WMG helps develop lightweight structuresWMG at the University of Warwick has worked with partners to create a new Very Light Rail (VLR) vehicle frame.

This has been ‘weaved’ from carbon-fibre composites into a series of tubes to create a ‘demonstrator’ frame.

Business Minister Andrew Stephenson visited WMG last month and was one of the first people outside the research partnership to see the new design.

Developed by the lightweight structural composite components company Far, and Transport Design International Ltd (TDI), the demonstrator frame can be easily assembled by adhesive and ‘simple welding’.

Darren Hughes, associate professor in materials and manufacturing at WMG (www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg), said: “Our Brainstorm VLR research partnership has achieved a significant weight saving, thereby allowing VLR services to accommodate more passengers while reducing the energy required to propel the vehicle — and the weight stress it will place on its rails.

“The technology also ensures that the vehicle is sufficiently tough for a long life in service, easily repairable when accidents happen and strong enough to protect the passengers on board.”

The very-light-weight approach consists of an underlying tubular space-frame chassis that provides the body shell. In the demonstrator frame, the partners have been able to keep the beams the same outside diameter, but their wall thickness is tailored to give the optimum performance.

This keeps the tooling costs low and allows all the joining to be standardised through a combination of welding and adhesive bonding.

Moreover, if there is significant damage to any individual beam, it can be replaced with a new one — and all the thermoplastic material is recyclable.

The whole moulding cycle can be completed in less than 5min, confirming the potential of this process for high-volume applications; and because the braiding process is highly automated, tubing can be produced at the rate of over a mile a day.

Lyndon Sanders, director and general manager of Nottingham-based Far, said: “The Brainstorm project feels like a real step forward. Being able to tap into the industry experience of TDI to hone the principle of a new type of body structure for mass transit applications was great.

"Add to that the collaborative working with the thermoplastic composite braiding technology from Composites Braiding and WMG to turn that thinking into a physical demonstrator frame was really powerful.

“Now it is more than a good idea, it is an eye opener for industry players; they can see it, touch it and even pick it up.”

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