The European Union funded project FlexHyJoin will revolutionize the use of FRPC in the automotive industry by developing a fully automated joining process for the manufacturing of hybrid metal/TP-FRPC components.
Joining of metals with fiber reinforced polymer composites (FRPC) to hybrid components plays an important role in vehicle weight reduction and facilitates the exploitation of the material’s full potential. Metal/TP-FRPC multi-materials are especially qualified for this purpose, as TP-FRPC offer high specific mechanical properties and a good chemical/corrosion resistance. However, up to now there is no suitable joining method for metal and TPFRPC which enables a high mechanical bonding performance without additional material and at the same time a high level of automation. In the project FlexHyJoin, a process is developed that uses the re-fusibility of thermoplastics to produce hybrid components without additional additives. Induction and laser welding will be combined in a fully automatized production cell, technologies which perfectly complement each other regarding the fields of application. By implementing an innovative laser surface structuring, a form-fit and thus an optimized connection through adhesion between the dissimilar materials can be realized for hybrid components. The combination of surface treatment with the technologies of induction and laser welding and the integration of all the equipment in an online process control will achieve a high degree of automation and a significant reduction in cycle times. A non-destructive component testing is carried out using the “Lock-in Thermography” technology and monitoring the joining zones for voids in form of air inclusions. Thus, FlexHyJoin will further the broad usage of metal-TP-FRPC hybrid components in automotive mass production. At present, a fully automated production cell is being developed which will enable the joining of metal brackets with a TP-FRPC roof stiffener. IVW is involved in this project as a coordinator in all areas.