Pressing Composites

When we think 4,000-ton hydraulic presses, making sheet metal body panels comes to mind.

Which, clearly, is old thinking.

This Schuler upstroke short-stroke press has with a clamping surface of 142 x 94 inches is installed at the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) facility in Detroit, where it will be used to develop vehicle parts, as well as other components.

According to Ray Boeman, associate director of vehicle technology and program manager responsible for the Detroit facility, “The efficient and economic production of fiber reinforced plastics is a key opportunity here, and industry has identified a long term challenge – open-access to composite manufacturing equipment where technology can be developed and demonstrated on full-scale prototypes. With Schuler, we are bringing a key composite manufacturing capability online at the only facility of its kind in the US.”

Speaking of the press, Paul Nicholson, CEO of Schuler North America, explains, “Our technology not only offers a dynamic force control for reduced energy consumption, but also a greatly reduced mold try-out and wear compensation which ensures a fast development process for the IACMI. Furthermore, the congruent bending lines of slide and table compensate natural variations in process variables and materials.”

Congruent bending lines? They’re necessary for producing thin parts within limited tolerances below 0.01 inches. Like body panels.

The IACMI, which is headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee, is part of the Manufacturing USA network. The organization’s objectives include reducing the costs for carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) by 25 percent, reducing CFRP embodied energy by 50 percent and increasing CFRP recyclability by 80 percent.

The Detroit facility is operated by Michigan State University, and it receives support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.