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Lightweight Composite Panel
However, the technology is not new. For years, composite or sandwich panels have been used in the manufacture of both civil and military aircraft, and more recently they have been used in racing vehicles, shipbuilding and even specialized architecture. A typical Boeing civil airliner can be composed of as little as 5-15% composite panel, although Boeing recently announced that the new 7E7 will be composed of up to 50% composite, making it ultralight while maintaining optimal durability.
The success of composite technology in aerospace has made it attractive to other industries looking to take advantage. One of the most significant to the trucking profession is that the underlying composite materials are much lighter than steel and aluminum with an average weight savings of up to 40% over steel and 20% over aluminum.
Currently, composite technology can be applied to body panels and accessories, front panels, floor, engine block, cargo liners, vehicle chassis, bumper beams, fuel tank brackets, heat-resistant parts such as intake manifold, cooling modules and oil sump. .The heavy wood or metal floor on trailers can be replaced with a sandwich panel to further shed pounds and take advantage of the added payload and longer life of the trailer deck. The variety in materials used and in the manufacturing process allows composite panels to be formed into flat or curved forms that have one of the highest strength-to-weight ratios of any structural material available on the market.
By replacing just the Class 8 sleeper box with custom-made composite panel technology, the overall weight of the vehicle can be reduced by up to 850 pounds, effectively reducing overall weight and fluid drag while increasing payload.
In addition to the lightweight composition, the sound dampening and insulating properties create a quiet environment inside the fret; corrosion resistance and overall durability are also high on the rating scale.
Panels are created when two materials are combined to form a stronger fabric than either of the two base materials alone. The panels themselves are heated and heat-fused to the matrix or core; the matrix binds together fibers of a stronger material, called reinforcement. The reinforcement can be made of fiberglass, aramid, and carbon, while the matrix can contain polyester resins, vinyl ester resins, or epoxy resins, as well as many lightweight fiber materials. Separating the skins with this low-density core increases the moment of inertia of the beam or panel with very little increase in weight, creating a highly efficient structure. Through the extensive use of high strength adhesives, the composite panels are precisely joined together, providing a superior improvement over conventional riveting or welding processes. Staying ahead of conventional practices allows the industry to see tangible savings associated with lower direct labor costs, tools, equipment, but most importantly, the elimination of expensive rust and corrosion problems or claims.
The strength of a composite panel basically depends on its overall size, the surface material used and the density of the cells inside it, the thicker the core, the higher the stiffness and strength of the panel. By carefully selecting the reinforcement, matrix and manufacturing process, manufacturers are able to produce industry-specific composite panels. Composites designed for heavy commercial applications such as aircraft manufacturing, aerospace, oil exploration and military markets use high-strength continuous fibers such as polyurethane foam or other dynamic materials to provide a strong panel that resists wear and tear due to loading or stress. mechanical stress. For low strength and stiffness or low stress applications such as automotive, marine and industrial parts, a matrix composed of discontinuous fibers such as paper or paperboard can be used to provide the optimum strength to weight ratio for the particular application.
With different compositions and thicknesses, compressive and tensile strength and resistance to deflection, they limit damage from stones and debris, as well as stress during loading and unloading to a minimum. If damage occurs, panel replacement is relatively easy and affordable and can be repaired at most repair facilities.
A general composite panel is generally described as:
Some overall benefits are:
- Lighter (but stronger) materials provide lower fuel consumption
- Can be adapted to many specific applications
- Relatively fast implementation times
- Noise-cancelling properties block ambient noise from outside the interior
- Resistant to harmful chemicals and heat
- Lasts longer
- Minimized structural noise
From a manufacturing or engineering perspective:
- If shock and impact loading is a concern, the size of the honeycomb cells can be adjusted to achieve different compressive strengths.
- Functional prototypes using laminated panels and sandwich panels can be developed within 4-6 weeks from start. Production processes are focused on maximum efficiency and optimal implementation time
- The insulation value (R value) can vary from 2.5 to 6 depending on the thickness of the panels. Specific customer requirements can be achieved by using special honeycomb cores and facings
- The range of materials used to manufacture the panels to specification makes it an attractive choice for truck manufacturers
- The versatility of the design of body and door panels, hoods, roof panels, hoods and spoilers allows for drastic reductions in fluid resistance and rolling resistance. Ongoing research and development provides continuous advances in the performance of composites and expands the range of applications. The transportation industry welcomes composite technology that may soon replace wood and metal as the material of choice.
Edison Reis, B.Sc. Ing.
Engineering and Quality Assurance Manager
Canadian Commercial Vehicles Corp.
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