Lightweight composite materials solutions (Dec 2017)

Cost-effective manufacturing techniques are currently being developed using robot machining of deep moulds and modular design concepts. They are critical to demonstrate the possible cost efficiencies of replacing current metal solutions with fibre-reinforced composites for the small batch sizes that are common in Defence applications.

DMTC’s project team is identifying and assessing lightweight composite material solutions as cost-effective alternatives for armoured defence platforms in general, and for Thales Australia’s Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle in particular.

A detailed materials selection study identified glass fibre reinforced vinyl-ester composites as potential candidates to produce external storage locker compartments that are currently manufactured from aluminium sheet metal. Queensland-based SME Fibreglass Design Panels support the development of modular mould systems and the manufacturing of prototype components.

An extended database of the mechanical characteristics of the selected material – including interlaminar toughness and bearing strength – was determined. Calculating interface toughness involved a novel top surface analysis method using 3D DIC displacement measurement. The material data is used in finite element simulations to develop and validate micro-mechanical damage models. They are essential foundations to the design of cost-competitive lightweight composite components.