General information on fiber reinforced plastic materials used for lightweight design

TEUFELBERGER's competence center for lightweight engineering has more than 10 years of experience in dimensioning, designing, developing, and manufacturing of components made from fiber reinforced plastics. The benefits of this material class as a lightweight design material will be discussed in further detail below   

Fiber reinforced plastics, so-called composite materials, are combinations made up of at least two different materials. In these composites, reinforcement fibers are structurally embedded in a plastic matrix. These hybrid materials feature outstanding mechanical properties and low material density. This makes them particularly suited as materials for use in lightweight engineering.

The most important advantages of fiber reinforced plastics as compared to metallic materials are:

  • Exceptional specific rigidity values, especially in unidirectionally oriented composites and where highly modular carbon fibers are used
  • Excellent load-dependent specific strength; extremely good fatigue strength, especially as compared to aluminum
  • Excellent corrosion resistance
  • Low thermal expansion
  • Very good damping properties
  • Great freedom of form and design

Yet, material and production costs of fiber reinforced plastics are still comparatively high. Nevertheless, when considering that currently only about 100,000 tons of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) are processed worldwide, a marked drop in the costs of this urgently needed lightweight material is to be expected within the next few years.
TEUFELBERGER's core competence is the production and processing of continuous-fiber-reinforced thermosetting plastics. These differ significantly in both processing and their properties from short and long-fiber-reinforced thermosetting plastics (e.g., sheet molding compounds (SMC)) and from thermoplastics (e.g., polyamide/glass fiber compounds).
The reinforcing fibers we use are mainly carbon fibers, glass fibers, or aramid fibers, depending on the specific requirements. The thermosetting matrix systems are mainly epoxy resins. With our processing methods (e.g., RTM), we achieve a maximum fiber volume content of 50 - 60%. Hence, the specific weight of fiber composite components varies between 1.5kg/dm3 (CFRP) and 1.7kg/dm3 (GFRP).

Since fiber reinforced plastics are materials having direction-dependent properties (so-called anisotropy), the orientation of the fiber bundles (the so-called preform) in the plastic matrix and the complete impregnation of the dry fibers with resin are of particular importance. 

TEUFELBERGER works with textile preforms (braided, tailored fiber placed, woven fabrics) and with single unidirectional fiber strands (wound structures). They are impregnated with the matrix in a subsequent step.  For special applications, however, we also use fiber mats pre-impregnated with resin (so-called prepreg materials) that only need to be consolidated under heat and pressure.  

Optimum and cost-effective lightweighting with CFRP and GFRP requires knowledge about materials and manufacturing processes, but also a host of additional engineering skills and expertise:

  • Finite element analysis for the calculation and simulation of stiffness and strengths
  • Load-specific component design as well as optimization regarding installation space and shape
  • Development of an ideal connection technology to metallic components
  • Specific quality management, development of repair and recycling solutions, and many other things

Building on our team of fiber composite specialists, we at TEUFELBERGER have been keeping pace with the latest trends for more than 10 years and will be delighted to provide answers to your lightweighting questions.