Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr Srikanth Pilla

Committee Member

Dr Gang Li

Committee Member

Dr Sai Aditya Pradeep


Automotive industry at large is focused on vehicle light-weighting since a 6%-8% increase in fuel efficiency can be achieved with a 10% reduction in vehicle weight [1]. With the growing demand for cost-effective and sustainable light weighting of automobile structures, interest has increased in the application of fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) composites for use in the Body-in-White (BiW), which can account for up to 40% of the total vehicle weight. Traditional FRP composite manufacturing processes like vacuum assisted resin transfer molding, autoclave consolidation or use of automated fiber placement have been successfully used for marine and aerospace applications. However, these processes are not suitable for the automotive industry due to the low production rate, need for highly skilled labor for manufacturing and quality control, and poor joining with traditional structural materials like steel. This necessitates the use of higher throughput outof-autoclave (OOA) processes like high pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM), wet compression molding (WCM) or even fiber reinforced thermoplastics (FR-TP) forming. The transition to these OOA processes face two major challenges: a) the time-consuming iterative design and thermal profiling process required for metal tools which increases cost; and b) the lack of a low-cost, scalable, and sustainable multi-material joining pathways that can enable integration of FRP composite parts with traditional metal structures. This is because existing composite joining methods necessitate significant redesign of existing OEM infrastructure, incur high capital costs, and produce weak joints between metal and composite components. iii To address the first challenge, a new paradigm where additive manufacturing of thermoplastic filament reinforced with continuous fiber is used to develop a low-cost and sustainable composite tool, is investigated. Furthermore, additive manufacturing can enable faster tool design turn-around times and allows for designing of complex tool geometries with embedded sensors and conformal cooling channels. This opens greater avenues for process and design optimization and will enable manufacturers to gain a better understanding of the process based on sensor data gathered in real time from the embedded sensors. To address the later challenge, a highly integrated multi-material, FRP-intensive BiW design was developed using unique multi-material transition joints which retain existing OEM joining infrastructure [2]. It incorporates multi-material transition joints where continuous dry fibers are laid through machined looped channels in a metal substrate and additional metal layers are additively manufactured on top of the looped fiber and metal substrate to embed the fibers within the metal and create a strong metal – fiber mechanical interlocking bond. The fibers are then infused with a thermoset matrix that fills out the loops as well, forming a string FRP-metal transition [3]. Thus, the resulting CFRP component with metal tabs can be spot welded to other metal components without piercing, drilling, or punching holes - significantly increasing the mechanical performance of the multi-material joints. To ascertain the advantages of these multi-material designs and the use of state-of-the-art additively manufactured smart tools, their life cycle impact must be investigated and compared with existing technology. The results from the LCA can provide vital understanding of the energy requirements of the new processes methodologies and can help iv quantify the benefits offered by transitioning to this new proposed paradigm of composite design and manufacturing from a sustainability and emission reduction standpoint. To best of the authors knowledge there have been no studies that address the LCA for each of the proposed solutions. Thus, this work, conducts two comparative life cycle analyses on the proposed additively manufactured smart composite tool for OOA processes and for the multi-material designs for automotive structural components. Different scenarios are studied for both the LCAs to consider the existing FRP production processes as well as the production process of traditional materials.



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