Thermoplastic Forming of Lightweight Vehicle Structures – Phase II

NCMS Project #: 142025

Problem: Lightweight composite materials are often sought out by both commercial automotive and defense industries to solve their respective weight issues.  Despite the known benefits of lightweight composite materials, these are often passed over during trade-studies in favor of metals due to some common barriers to implementation.  In order for the commercial transportation and defense industries to utilize high-performance, lightweight composites in vehicles, these barriers must be addressed.  This project will leverage recent breakthroughs in materials science and manufacturing to strategically address these historical barriers to implementation.

Benefit: This initiative will develop and demonstrate lightweight, corrosion resistant thermoplastic composite structures using economical materials and manufacturing processes, thereby reducing vehicle weight and easing maintenance and sustainment burdens in commercial automotive, commercial marine, and defense industries.

Solution/Approach: In Phase I, lightweight thermoplastic composite material was developed for interior vehicle structures subjected to extreme conditions, including fires.  During the Phase II, a next generation vehicle floor design will be manufactured and tested under a simulated blast event, thus increasing the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from TRL 4 (laboratory) to TRL 6 (relevant environment).  Under Phase I, this technology was used for manufacturing small structures (less than 4 feet in dimensions) for military tactical trucks.  Under Phase II, the technology concept will be expanded to leverage a new breakthrough large format additive manufacturing process that can produce composite tooling at the full vehicle scale (in excess of 10 feet in dimensions).

Impact on Warfighter:

  • Decrease corrosion and rust
  • Reduce maintenance and sustainment costs
  • Lower vehicle weights, fuel usage and carbon emissions
  • Increase warfighter readiness, protection, mobility and lethality

DOD Participation:

  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Navy (observer)
  • U.S. Marine Corps (observer)

Industry Participation:

  • University of Maine
  • NCMS

Benefit Area(s):

  • Cost savings
  • Maintenance avoidance and reliability
  • Positive environmental impact
  • Energy efficiency
  • Durability
  • Lightweighting

Focus Area:

  • Energy, environmental, health, and safety