Apple leaf miner inspires new processes for composite construction

Production of the pavillion made of carbon-glass fiber reinforced composites

Production of the pavillion made of carbon-glass fiber reinforced composites

At a glance:

  • Construction of a pavilion made of carbon-glass fiber reinforced composites
  • SGL Group delivers 104 kilometers SIGRAFIL® 50k carbon fiber to the Institute for Computational Design at the University of Stuttgart

Our SIGRAFIL® 50k carbon fiber is often used today as basis for applications in the fields Mobility and Energy – from the automotive industry to aerospace, through to wind energy. The new generation of these large-tow fibers is ideally suited for automated production processes and already in use as standard in the BMW i3, i8, and the new BMW 7 Series, among others. In the future, the use in further applications is conceivable.

The Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) and the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart are currently researching a novel production process for architectonic structures based on 50k fibers. An initial installation from the project can currently be seen on the University of Stuttgart’s inner courtyard. For this endeavor, 104 kilometers of carbon fibers were provided and delivered from our Moses Lake site in the state of Washington to Stuttgart.

The focus of the project is investigating natural biological construction processes of long span fiber composite structures. Serving as a model here were the larvae of the apple leaf miner moth (“Lyonetia Clerkella”), which spin cocoons on cherry and apple tree leaves using long threads of fiber. Researchers at the ICD and ITKE, together with students of the master study program ITECH, are now trying to apply this special technique to the construction of architectonic structures made of carbon-glass-fiber-reinforced composites and develop a new production process based for fiber composite constructions. As carbon fibers are lightweight and have a high tensile strength, a radically different approach becomes possible involving new production processes with multiple robot systems that communicate with each other, precisely processing the fibers while handling high tension forces. This approach enables a scalable production process for long span fiber composite constructions as they could be used in architectural design in the future.

“In this case, we use the glass fibers purely as a formwork on which we apply the carbon fibers. Loads in parts subject to both tension and pressure are primarily transferred through the carbon fibers. With its long spanning cantilever form, this year’s pavilion places a special focus on the options offered by this material,” says Benjamin Felbrich, research assistant at the ICD.

Andreas Wuellner, Head of the business unit Composites – Fibers and Materials (CFM) of SGL Group: “For us as a company the continuous development of production processes of carbon fibers is an important topic, that’s why we are having a lively exchange with the project team at the University of Stuttgart. Furthermore, the construction of the pavilion is a stress test in practice for our fiber and demonstrates its’ unique characteristics.”

Further information and pictures of the project can be found here.

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