Flow Properties of Tailored Net-Shape Thermoplastic Composite Preforms
A novel thermoplastic programmable preforming process, TP-P4, has been used to manufacture preforms for non-isothermal compression molding. Commingled glass and polypropylene yarns are deposited by robot onto a vacuum screen, followed by a heat-setting operation to stabilize the as-placed yarns for subsequent handling. After an optional additional preconsolidation stage, the preforms are molded by preheating and subsequent press forming in a shear edge tool. The in- and out-of-plane flow capabilities of the material were investigated, and compared to those of 40 wt% Glass Mat Thermoplastics (GMTs). Although the TP-P4 material has a fiber fraction of 60 wt%, the material could be processed to fill 77 mm deep ribs with a thickness of 3 mm, indicative of complex part production. The pressure requirements for out-of-plane flow were shown to depend on the fiber length and fiber alignment. Segregation phenomena were found to be less severe with TP-P4 than with GMT material.