Create stronger composite materials through nature-inspired spiral design | Composite Materials World

2021-12-08 06:22:31 By : Ms. Clare Huang

Helicoid Industries claims that toughness, impact strength and material, weight, and cost have increased by 50% compared to a quasi-isotropic "fail-safe" design. #风刀

There are many ways to manufacture composite materials using Helicoid Industries’ patented technology-including AFP, hand lay-up and filament winding-where the rotation of each layer of the composite laminate (upper left corner) is customized to increase strength and resistance. Damage and weight and durability. Image source: Helicoid Industries

Helicoid Industries (Indio, California, U.S.) was established in 2019 to commercialize the Helicoid technology, which was patented by the University of California, Riverside (UCR) in 2016 and is exclusively licensed until 2034. Since its launch, the company’s intellectual property portfolio has followed other pending patents to develop innovative features to utilize various raw materials, processes and applications-including carbon and glass fiber reinforced polymers (CFRP, GFRP) To take advantage of Helicoid technology. The company claims that the technology provides a series of performance improvements, weight and cost reductions. Examples include:

The claimed enhanced impact performance can be used to reduce the weight of the structure, thereby reducing the use of overall materials and the amount of high-performance and expensive (such as carbon fiber) materials required. 

Helicoid Industries is cooperating with 20 global leading companies in the fields of sporting goods, protective equipment, automotive, aerospace and wind energy applications. The goal is to achieve commercialization within 12-18 months and complete a seed round of financing of 5 million US dollars. For future prototype manufacturing and other bionic research projects.

I wrote an article about spirochetes and other layered composite materials in my blog "Bionic Design: The Future of Lightweight Structures" in 2016: Chitin is used as a building block at the angstrom, nanometer, and micrometer level of lobster shells. Each level has a unique way of organization, resulting in a hard and flexible structure.

Dr. Lorenzo Mencattelli, R&D Director of Helicoid Industries, said: "Layered and spiral microstructures are the two most common features of fibrous biomaterials." "Their constituent materials have different structures in each layer to provide unique lightness Quality but damage-resistant structure. Contrary to traditional engineering, the structure of traditional engineering is designed for strength, while natural design is to maximize toughness. By constructing material components in highly heterogeneous structures, nature makes complex As a response, the fracture mode results in fracture toughness several orders of magnitude higher than a single component. This damage propagation prevents failure to grow in a controlled manner, resulting in unparalleled structural integrity."

Mencattelli pointed out that spiral microstructures are often found in insect cuticles, wood, and crustaceans. "For example, the knuckles of a mantis shrimp are made of piles of chitin fibers embedded in a protein matrix, each of which rotates to form a spiral. The result is a lightweight shell that can withstand hundreds of shocks. Without catastrophic failure.” He pointed out that many different universities have conducted research on this spiral structure for more than ten years, and the results show great potential. However, applying these to commercial applications has always been a problem.

"The challenge," Mencattelli explained, "has always been to understand the design drivers of embedding spiral structures in engineering applications, and to achieve cost-effective manufacturability and scale. What we develop at Helicoid Industries is an in-depth understanding of the Helicoid architecture , Which allows us to design scalable, highly impact resistant structures. We do this by customizing laminates to meet stiffness and strength requirements while maximizing impact protection. For example, we can design "directional" spiral layers Laminates—not necessarily quasi-isotropic laminates (for example, 0°/+45°/-45°/90°)—to provide in-plane directionality and improved impact protection. No new materials or manufacturing methods required You can implement the technology and gain performance advantages."

Helicoid Industries was founded by the company's CEO Chad Wasilenkoff. "My background is as an investor. He has developed more than 30 companies and attracted more than a dozen listed companies," he explained. "I was a volunteer in UCR's graduate course in business and entrepreneurship, and asked,'You do hundreds of millions of dollars in research every year, what is the most interesting disruptive technology you are preparing to commercialize?' They all said immediately, this is Helicoid technology."

Therefore, Wasilenkoff investigated this and hired retired Boeing composites engineer Doug McCarville to conduct due diligence. McCarville believes this technology is revolutionary and is now the CTO of Helicoid Industries. "So, I started to expand our team and raise seed funding," Wasilenkoff said. "Our goal is to raise 5 million U.S. dollars and we have raised approximately 3 million U.S. dollars so far. We have attracted world-class talent and team members in several locations on the East Coast of the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States."

Mencattelli joined Helicoid Industries in 2021. "I work in the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College (London, UK), researching creative design strategies to improve the damage tolerance and damage resistance of high-performance composites by constructing microstructures," he said. “Bionics is very important to my research. I also explored spiral design strategies to solve the inherent brittleness of thin-layer composites. I think the patented Helicoid technology is indeed disruptive. I want to contribute to the development of these bionic high-performance composites. Make a contribution and push it to the industry."

During his research during his Ph.D., Mencattelli showed how the patented Helicoid composite design can improve impact damage resistance compared to traditional quasi-isotropic laminates. "During the test, we measured various performance indicators, including peak load, energy dissipation, and failure displacement. As the fiber angle between continuous layers in the structure is rotated and customized, all of these indicators show a significant increase at the same time. "He said.

Figure 4 Photo source of all figures: Helicoid Industries

The figure on the right shows the energy dissipation, delamination area and load displacement curve of the thin-layer CFRP spiral structure. "[Lower right corner] The photo of the damaged sample shows that the damage morphology of the traditional quasi-isotropic laminate has been greatly improved. The traditional quasi-isotropic laminate has a very brittle fracture type that can locate the damage. In the patented In Helicoid composites, the damage is more dispersed, with many subtle matrix cracks. In addition, you can also see how the customized angular rotation allows the fibers to reorient, tending to wrap around the indenter and better resist perforations."

Mencattelli describes other indentation tests for aerospace-grade CFRP laminates manufactured in collaboration with Carbon Axis (Perini, France) using automatic fiber placement (AFP) and 200 grams per square meter (gsm) tow (using ASTM 7136 test fixtures) ): "In these tests, it was impossible to break through the Helicoid laminate. Compared with the reference conventional quasi-isotropic laminate, it showed excellent structural integrity and residual strength, the latter showing a high degree of partial failure and complete perforation In addition, when the weight of the laminate is reduced by 17%, the excellent structural integrity of the Helicoid laminate is retained. This shows that the technology can significantly reduce weight while maintaining the safety margin of key components without compromising performance ."

Mencattelli says that this ability to activate high-dissipative failure mechanisms, extensive subcritical damage propagation, and complex crack modes results in structures designed with excellent damage tolerance. "It is not over-designed to suppress damage. Damage becomes a tool to effectively withstand extreme load conditions, providing the best compromise between lightweight, performance and structural integrity."

So, the conversion from traditional composite laminates to Helicoid composites just rotates each layer by 10 degrees? "It depends on the part," Wasilenkoff said. "Sometimes we may have eight layers and a 15-degree rotation. Other times, like a golf club, it will have 60 to 100 layers and may rotate 360 ​​degrees multiple times. For a pressure vessel containing hydrogen, We can use one type of Helicoid on the inner layer, where you need very small micro-cracks, because you want to ensure that the gas does not leak, and then use another type on the outer layer, designed for impact resistance. For car structures, We may use a completely different Helicoid in order to prevent more catastrophic failures in collision events."

"We have applied for patents for any and all Helicoids," Wasilenkoff pointed out, "but they are not exactly the same. This is where we use our expertise and technical toolbox to work with various component manufacturers to provide them with The best performance application for a specific product."

"This is not the same concept as the double-corner thin layer," Mencattelli said. "The idea behind Helicoid composites is different." He explained that Steven Tsai's patented concept of thin layer and double-angle laminate is related to the cutting stiffness and strength characteristics and the use of thin layer technology to suppress micro-cracks. "By using off-axis layers to create thin non-crimp fabric (NCF) building blocks, it is possible to build laminates with a higher degree of off-axis fiber dispersion. This helps provide better homogeneity and reduces asymmetry in the laminate This makes it easier to design the structure without being restricted to symmetrical lamination. Under certain load conditions such as uniaxial compression, the use of shallow angles is also very advantageous."

Photomicrographs of traditional quasi-isotropic and spiral composite laminates. Image source: Helicoid Industries

"Or, our technology targets out-of-plane performance and does not rely on thin-layer technology," Mencattelli said. "How many layers you need depends on the design space of the application. For car parts that use only four unidirectional (UD) layers, you need to increase the number of layers to allow spiral surfaces, and then you need thinner layers. This may result in increased costs , And this can be compensated by reducing the overall structure weight and using fewer raw materials. But if we have a higher number of layers and a minimum of eight layers, we can use the standard layer thickness. The more layers we have, the more we can optimize The more we have, because we have more design space."

 "There are many ways to manufacture composite materials using Helicoid's patented technology," Wasilenkoff said, "including AFP and other commonly used manufacturing processes. In AFP, through simple software changes, any Helicoid layup sequence can be implemented with minimal waste. For manual and automatic layup, you can change the angle and direction of the fiber when the layer is cut into shape, and then manually or by picking and placing the automatic pre-formed positioning layer to achieve the designed spiral layup sequence. Compared with traditional laminates, There are almost no changes in the manufacturing steps. This allows the rapid deployment of our Helicoid technology to improve current designs.

Preforms and parts manufactured using Helicoid patented technology. Image source: Helicoid Industries

He said that helix manufacturing can also be used for filament winding of shafts, tubes and pressure vessels. "We also used this method to create Helicoids, so there are no changes in manufacturing, materials, or curing," Wasilenkoff points out. "We have used glass, aramid and carbon fiber and various resins. We have not encountered any problems in the resin infusion of Helicoid intervention molded parts or the pre-forming of prepreg tape."

Another challenge is to form a flat Helicoid laminate into a 3D preform, he said, “but we have been able to solve this problem and provide preforms with good drape. Therefore, we made preforms for helmets and curved parts. , And achieved good results." Mencattelli pointed out that the company is also studying thermoplastic composite materials.

How about 3D printing? "Helicoid is very suitable for additive manufacturing technologies such as AFP and 3D printing. At Helicoid Industries, we mainly focus on AFP, which is a mature technology in the industry. Regarding 3D printing of continuous fiber reinforced composite materials, Helicoid has already carried out laboratory-scale 3D printing. Exploration. Ongoing research includes work done in one of the University of California laboratories. We have not yet commercialized 3D printing, but tests so far have shown the same performance advantages as other Helicoid composites. In general, passed By applying this technology at the structural level rather than at the ingredient level, we can use Helicoid in combination with most manufacturing technologies."

Mencattelli claims that compared with quasi-isotropic laminates, the aerospace-grade Helicoid structure can reduce weight by 17%, increase energy absorption by 54%, reduce cycle time by 27% (using AFP), and reduce raw materials by at least 11% (for hand-stacked) Layer process). These results come from the work done by Helicoid Industries and Carbon Axis, and are presented in the CAMX 2021 technical paper.

"The excellent puncture resistance of Helicoid composite laminates is a huge advantage for next-generation engine casings and composite blades for aircraft propellers and jet engines," he pointed out. "In the event of a blade falling off, you can prevent the blade from piercing the sealing ring and the nacelle to prevent serious damage to the fuselage." He pointed out that this is a solution that can be integrated with already qualified materials and manufacturing processes. Therefore, it can be easily implemented in a short period of time, thereby quickly gaining market advantage. "Mencattelli admits that the technology has some limitations. "You do need a certain number of layers to make it work. We sometimes encounter difficulties in sporting goods and other applications because there are only a few layers in laminate, but for aerospace, generally speaking, we have no real problems in implementing spiral technology. "

In automotive applications, more sustainable solutions are needed to achieve a positive carbon footprint for mass production of parts. The carbon footprint of traditional glass fiber composite materials is 50% higher than that of natural fiber composite materials such as flax. Helicoid™ technology can use bio-based fibers more widely by improving the performance of natural fiber composite materials. “In automobiles, bio-based composites for load-bearing structures are hampered by a low performance/cost ratio. Compared with traditional laminate designs, we have increased the impact strength of linen/epoxy laminates by 52%. "Mencattelli said. "If you want to protect components such as battery packs in electric vehicles, this behavior is ideal. You can use materials more efficiently, and you can stop and avoid perforations in the event of a serious impact. Your resin is not Additives are needed, but materials that are already on the market can be used. This is what we are doing. Our Helicoid technology really promotes performance improvements, not components, but structural design."

The spiral composite material tested for resistance to rain erosion at the leading edge of the wind blade showed that the erosion quality of the composite substrate (bottom image) was reduced by at least 34% compared with the traditional laminate (top image). Image source: Helicoid Industries

In the field of wind energy, Helicoid composites are being tested to prevent rain erosion on the front edge of the wind blade. “In preliminary investigations, we found that the erosion quality of the composite substrate was reduced by at least 34%, which made the blades more durable, thereby reducing maintenance downtime and increasing power production,” Mencattelli said. "Through cooperation with CaltestBed, the University of California, Irvine, and leading NCF fabric suppliers, custom Helicoid laminates are currently being developed for cost-effective implementation in wind blade applications."

In high-performance sporting goods, thin-layer carbon fiber/epoxy Helicoid laminates have been proven to simultaneously increase the maximum load capacity by 92% and increase energy absorption by 164%.

In motorcycle helmets, the local fiber weight is reduced by 25%. Mencattelli said: “Helmet-based helmets have reduced the maximum gravity transmitted to the head by at least 20% and have excellent structural integrity and puncture resistance. Widespread applications that benefit from its disruptive potential."

"In addition to original equipment manufacturers and component manufacturers, Helicoid Industries is also working with major raw material suppliers to embed spiral technology in multiaxial fabrics—including UD materials and non-crimp fabrics (NCF)—and thermosets in a cost-effective manner. Lightweight woven fabrics, thermoplastic organic sheets, tapes and dried forms in prepregs," Wasilenkoff said. But doesn't every Helicoid application need specific tailoring? "For some applications, we found that we can work within a certain helix angle range and still outperform traditional solutions," Mencattelli explained. "If we can choose to tailor layer by layer, such as using AFP, then we can achieve excellent optimization. But for high-volume and cost-sensitive applications, such as the use of roll-type NCF in automobiles and wind energy, we need to reduce costs to obtain Maximum performance gain. However, we can still reduce weight and overall material usage."

Mencattelli added that the composites industry continues to innovate and seek higher performance materials, processes and designs. "Inspired by nature's truly high-quality materials, Helicoid technology is part of this ever-evolving movement, aiming to provide a new generation of high-strength, damage-resistant, lightweight, more sustainable and durable composite materials."

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