Equally important to lab tests are computer simulation studies. A critical part of the project between LIFT and CAR will be providing OEMs with computer-aided engineering results. “We do a lot of computer simulation of structures, not just in the automotive industry, but all industries,” says Vadhavkar. “To be able to model the joint is the most critical part of simulating a structure.”
Through finite element analysis, the partners hope to show predictable results for a variety of mixed-material joined structures. “Everything can’t be a physical model. There have to be computer simulations,” adds Vadhavkar. “That’s how we do iterations – using the model to come up with the best solutions.”
Of course, the best solutions are usually found through collaboration. Most suppliers will work hand-in-hand with customers not only troubleshooting issues, but also providing insight on material selection, design and prototypes.
Davis would like the composites industry to take collaboration to the next level. “There’s not been a significant drive to go to the market together as a materials supplier and an adhesive supplier to solve the joining issue,” he says. Typically, his company gets all the information on load requirements and develops a part of the geometry, then the adhesive supplier steps in and works on bringing the two substrates together. “Sometimes you get down the road on these programs and realize joining will be a problem,” says Davis. Upfront teamwork could alleviate that problem.
Looking to the Future
Industry pros admit that large OEMs often take double precautions, bonding materials and then adding a mechanical fastener, to make sure the assembly stays together. Davis says most markets that Norplex-Micarta target ask the company to adapt its prepregs with molding compounds to mold in inserts and have a bolt attachment. “Think about the complexity of all that,” he says.
Davis advocates for a combination of customer education and further advancements in joining technology, particularly in the adhesive segment, which could benefit the composites industry and end users. “Adhesives are the future,” he says. “We have to continue as an industry to help OEMs and the people who put their company’s reputation on the line have confidence in that solution.”