Powdertech Surface Science, a company working in the area of lightweight material processing, says it has developed an innovative, time and labour-saving method for joining composites to metal. Demonstrated within the Ariel Hipercar project, Powdertech has introduced a novel process for bonding polypropylene glass fibre composite to aluminium for the vehicle’s monocoque chassis. No adhesives are used at all. Powdertech’s work was part of SOLMAC, an Innovate UK funded project. The process, called Powderbond™, is single stage, placing powder coated aluminium into a mold together with polypropylene and using the standard composite curing cycle.
“We are delighted with the result”, said Simon Saunders, founder of Ariel Motor Company. “The process is clean and quick, and the bond strength achieved far surpasses current adhesive-based methods”. This is a lean manufacturing process with no surface preparation necessary for the polymer, no activation period and an energy saving short curing cycle. A typical chassis is made up of several hundred separate parts, welded and rivetted together. By creating the aluminium-composite bonds within a mold, the number of parts in the Hipercar chassis is reduced by over seventy five percent.
“Bonding metals and composites in a single stage gives tremendous freedom in design” said James Grant, Powdertech Director. “Complex and intricate shapes can be moulded into the composite structure whilst also incorporating high strength metal features. Powderbond™ makes it possible, today, to use the best possible lightweight materials for the job, exactly where they are needed. We would be delighted to discuss the wide-ranging implications of adhesive-free Powderbond™ with anyone who is joining lightweight metals to composite materials.”