Purdue University Graduate School
2022.05.06 Heflin Thesis.pdf (6.64 MB)

Hybrid Composite Materials and Manufacturing

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posted on 2022-05-06, 15:20 authored by Diana Gabrielle HeflinDiana Gabrielle Heflin

Composite materials have become widely used for high-performance applications, particularly in the aerospace industry where annual production volumes are low and a higher part cost can be supported. During the last decades composite materials are beginning to see use in a broader range of applications, including the automotive and sports equipment industries. Simultaneously, there is increasing demand from consumers and regulatory bodies to make cars more fuel efficient and in the case of EV’s longer drive range, which can be accomplished by reducing vehicle weight. Composite materials have high specific stiffnesses and strengths, resulting in weight savings when they are used to replace traditionally metal components. However, in order for widespread adoption of composite parts to be viable for the automotive industry, high-rate manufacturing must be realized to reach the required production volumes and part costs.

Toward this goal, advanced composite manufacturing techniques have been developed. These techniques typically combine high automation with careful material selection, which can include fast-curing resins and thermoplastics with adapted melt viscosities and thermomechanical properties. They also allow for complex part geometries to be produced in a single step, reducing the need for additional assembly time. Further, they can be used to easily create multi-material components, which can result in parts that benefit from the desirable mechanical properties of the constituent materials without sacrificing performance.

This thesis develops a framework for the design and high-rate manufacture of multi-material components. First, a critical literature review is conducted to develop a clear understanding of existing research into combinations of dissimilar materials, including epoxy/polyamide, thermoplastic elastomer/polyamide, and aluminum/thermoplastic. It is shown that, for all material combinations studied, interfacial delamination and subsequent deformation are the primary energy absorption mechanisms and that manufacturing conditions may affect interfacial bond strength. Based on this foundation, adhesion testing is performed on devoted sample configurations fabricated under controlled molding conditions. For these material combinations, interfacial adhesion can be significantly improved with carefully selected processing temperatures, even to the extent that adhesive bond between dissimilar materials can be stronger than the cohesive bond in the constituent materials. Next, impact and quasi-static indentation testing were performed to determine the effects of interfacial adhesion and part design on crash performance. The materials tested all benefit from the placement of a more ductile material on the impacted side of the sample (top surface), indicating a more favorable dissipation of the contact stresses from the impactor, and a higher strength material on the bottom surface where it can withstand tensile stresses imposed by impact-induced bending. 

 Finally, a complex part consisting of a unidirectional polyamide/carbon fiber preform and a thermoplastic overmold is manufactured via a hybrid overmolding process. Interfacial temperature during overmolding is varied to confirm if the same improvements in interfacial bond strength seen in the compression molding test samples are attainable under realistic high-rate manufacture conditions. Additionally, the preform volume is varied to examine the effect of the preform reinforcement on a part’s bending performance. For this system, varying the preform temperature had no effect on interfacial bond strength. A predictive technical cost model is also used to determine the effect of manufacturing changes on part costs. Increasing the tow volume three-fold increased the absorbed energy by more than 30% and requires an increased cost of only 3.8%. 

This thesis proves that a tough, multi-material part can be rapidly produced via hybrid overmolding. It was demonstrated that a complex shaped part could be produced at a complete line cycle time of approximately 90 secondsmaking it a viable method to produce high-performance, low-cost components. 


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Materials Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jan-Anders Mansson

Additional Committee Member 2

R. Byron Pipes

Additional Committee Member 3

Johnathan Goodsell

Additional Committee Member 4

Jeffrey Youngblood