Volkswagen laser cutting carbon fiber components


Wolfsburg, Germany - Volkswagen AG (VW), working with Laser Zentrum Hannover eV (LZH) and other partners, is developing a laser process for the automated cutting of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the automotive industry. If cars based on CFRP are to be mass-produced, then automated production technologies for cutting the material must be developed. Conventional technologies such as milling or waterjet cutting have disadvantages, such as high tool wear or need for water and abrasives.

As part of a project called HolQueSt 3D, seven partners from industry and science, under the leadership of Volkswagen, are working together on developing a process for the three-dimensional (3D) laser processing of CFRP structures. The use of lasers overcomes the problems of milling and waterjet cutting, can be used with high precision, and the process has high reproducibility and flexibility.

Up to now, owing to the high temperatures generated, the laser processing of CFRP has caused damage to the laminates. Based on a fiber-guided laser with pulse lengths in the nanosecond range (developed by Trumpf Laser GmbH + Co KG, Schramberg, Germany), LZH,  Hannover, Germany, is developing both a process geared towards CFRP applications and an optimized process monitoring system.A further obstacle to the use of lasers for cutting CFRP components is the generation of particles and gases, which are hazardous to health. Together with Jenoptik Katasorb GmbH of Jena, Germany, LZH is working on a remedy by finding a suitable method for treatment and filtration.

The body of VW's two-seat diesel-electric hybrid car, the XL1 (see photo), is largely made of CFRP. Further, the company owns an 8.18% stake in SGL Carbon of Wiesbaden, Germany.

Photo of XL1 courtesy of Volkswagen.

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