Peggy Jones, NSIRC Operations Assistant
Third year NSIRC EngDoc student Faranak Bahrami has presented her research to globally-recognised experts at the 22nd International Conference on Composite Material (ICCM22). Faranak secured a conference grant from the University of Surrey, as well as two travel awards from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMEchE), allowing her to travel to Melbourne, Australia, where the conference was held.
Her research, which she presented on the second day of the conference in August 2019, is titled ‘Thermally Assisted Piercing; Manufacture and Properties of Multiply-Pierced Composites’. It focuses on perforated thermoplastic composite panels, which are used in various industrial applications such as sound absorbing engine components, de-icing systems and blast protection panels. Currently, these perforations are created using conventional machining techniques such as drilling and abrasive water jet cutting. However, these break load-bearing fibres and reduce composite structural integrity.
Commenting on her experience, Faranak said, “Getting out of your comfort zone, and going to another country to present your work to loads of people, who you don’t know, can be a very exciting, challenging, and also very rewarding. Talking to all the people who are interested in a similar field is a great opportunity for learning. On the other hand, you get to make new friends from all around the world which I found very nice”.
What is Thermally Assisted Piercing...?
- TWI Ltd - "A material displacement process that can be used to displace fibres while forming a hole in Thermoplastic Composites (TPCs) at various stages of manufacture or subsequent processing"
Thermoplastic composites are becoming more frequently demanded by the aerospace and automotive sectors, as they offer high stiffness and toughness, low density and melt processability. Faranak’s EngDoc research aims to provide these industries with a fine-tuned technique which can deliver weight and emissions-saving perforated thermoplastic composites without compromising on strength.
In 2016, TWI developed the Thermally Assisted Piercing (TAP) process as an innovative mechanical fastening technique. A project funded by TWI members continued the research, building on the benefits of using thermoplastic composites for perforated structures. The new process which was developed, ‘Multiple Piercing Perforation Technique’, is capable of creating hundreds of small holes at a time in a thermoplastic composite structure. Instead of being severed, the fibres are displaced around the pins, better preserving composite strength. Mechanical and non-destructive tests have favourably compared the innovatively-pierced specimens to conventionally-drilled ones.
Faranak built on this new research by using finite element analysis to model the manufacturing process. This generated a 3D model of the microstructure of the perforated composite. Information regarding the spatial distribution of the fibres around the holes was then gathered, enabling simulation of how the perforated structure would perform in service. This can reduce the time taken to design and manufacture the component, allowing the full potential of thermoplastic composite materials to be obtained.
Organised by the Australian Composite Structures Society (ACSS), one of the aims of ICCM22 was to explore how composites ‘will be used in the future covering multiple applications including [the] aerospace, construction, wind energy and automotive [industries]’. The conference aim aligned with Faranak’s research, making it the ideal environment for her to network and collaborate. She returned to the UK with a request for potential collaboration, as well as more confidence in her research, which she will complete by September 2020.
Answering questions from fellow research students and industry experts is a great opportunity to evaluate and improve your thinking, and can help form contacts in academia and industry which can reach far beyond graduate study. Interacting with examples of other cutting-edge research in your field is an experience NSRIC encourages its students to engage in. It also demonstrates the excellent engineering research NSIRC students are able to conduct within the pioneering industrial environment of TWI.
Faranak’s EngDoc is supervised by Dr Chris Worrall of TWI; internally mentored by Tyler London; sponsored by TWI’s CRP project, collaborative project FibreShip, and EPSRC; and awarded by the University of Surrey.