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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y015061/1
Title: Fibre Reinforced Thermoplastic Tape Development Cell
Principal Investigator: Frias, Dr C C
Other Investigators:
Foster, Dr G
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Ford Motor Co GKN Aerospace (Melrose) Graphene@Manchester
iCOMAT Limited National Composites Centre Teijin Carbon Europe
University of Edinburgh University of Manchester, The University of Nottingham
University of Warwick
Department: Advanced Manufacturing Res Centre Boeing
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2023 Ends: 31 March 2027 Value (£): 1,786,360
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Manufacturing
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Jun 2023 EPSRC Strategic Equipment Interview Panel June-July 2023 - Panel 1 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
With a drive for the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, there is a need to develop novel, lightweight, manufacturing materials which are also sustainable and energy efficient to make.

Fibre reinforced thermoplastic tape (FRTT) is an emerging composite material which offers significant advantages over its thermoset counterpart: it can be processed out of autoclave, reducing energy consumption; its remelt and remould properties make it easier to recycle; it is highly adaptable and flexible, meaning specific forms can be made for specific parts which reduces waste and manufacture cost; and it can be stored at room temperature, removing the need for low temperature storage.

The strength and durability of FRTT has led to increasing usage in sectors where lightweight components are vital to reduce carbon emissions. In aerospace, FRTT has been used for small aeroplane parts and substructures including clips and brackets, and thermoplastic composites are already used to make leading edges of wings, horizontal tailplanes, rudders and elevators. In automotive, thermoplastic composites are of interest to manufacture door panels, wheel components, and bulkheads; and in the renewable energy sector for the manufacture of pressure vessels for hydrogen storage, and their potential use as elements of turbine blades for offshore wind.

FRTT is a growing area. With a forecasted market increase of 184% for semi-finished products (only part of the overall market for FRTT), it is important the UK positions itself as a frontrunner for FRTT research and development. Sustainability is a key driver in this area, but the complex interactions between fibres, polymers, and processing makes it a scientific challenge. This Cell will provide the UK's academic and industrial research communities with access to the equipment necessary to address these challenges and strengthen our competitiveness in this field.

Equipment within the Cell will include a flexible, modular, dual-impregnation thermoplastic tapeline, to support research across a full range of fibres (carbon, glass, kevlar, metal, optical, natural), impregnation methods (polymer melt or powder), and thermoplastic materials, due to its melt temperature capability. The integrated inline tape analysis system will assess tape quality in real time, and make data available online for researchers to evaluate the processes. Slitting capabilities within the Cell will also mean FRTT can be slit accurately and quickly for further research and composite applications. This equipment is of a significantly higher specification than any other tapeline currently available for academic or industrial research.

This equipment will enable research into:

- sustainable composite raw materials (fibres and polymers);

- manufacturing from sustainable, natural fibre, or naturally sourced materials (jute, kenaf, sisal, and hemp);

- incorporation of sensors or optical fibres to develop smart tapes or the addition of nanomaterials to enhance electrical or thermal conductivity of the tapes;

- manufacturing process optimisation, including agile responsiveness, life cycle and materials flow analyses;

- the use of data and digital technologies for finite element analysis modelling;

- applications for FRTT, including in aerospace, automotive, renewable energy, and medical sectors.

We have evidenced strong support and user interest for this equipment from both academic and industry communities, and additional in kind support from 10 project partners who will be part of our strategic advisory board. The equipment will be situated at the world-leading Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), in one of Europe's most important Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering clusters. We have the capability to bring together both regional contacts and national connections to maximise research using the equipment, and ensure strong value for money on this EPSRC investment

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.shef.ac.uk