Progress comes about incrementally and collaboratively. It builds on the foundation of what came before it. It takes time to realize breakthroughs. That’s one reason why the research and development that takes place in higher learning institutions is so important. Researchers and their students don’t face the same pressures as industry to commercialize ideas, so they have the wherewithal to pursue hypotheses before there’s a business case for it.
Of course, academic researchers work closely with industry and their work sometimes results in viable products. In the past decade, the composites industry has benefited greatly from the emerging technologies borne out of university research centers. This week we will post a series of university R&D that is in pursuit of the new.
School: Brigham Young University
Location: Provo, Utah
Director: David Jensen
BYU professor David Jensen had a vision: Take advantage of carbon fiber to produce better structures. He used previous work on grid structures to form the foundation of IsoTruss, a technology for bike manufacturing. “This technology differs because the structure itself is three-dimensional, so you won’t use a tubular mandrill like you would in a typical tubular frame,” Jensen says. This makes the tooling more complex. Specifically, the straightness of the member is key. “It should be under tension during cure, straight and properly consolidated. We wanted the intersections of the members interlocked so there’s some structural integrity in those joints,” says Jensen. “Because this is a fibrous material, we can weave those joints.”
Interweaving separates the fibers like a log cabin. The members are separated by notching the logs and chinking in between the logs. Jensen says this approach would use excess resin and add needless weight: “Our goal was to pull those fibers together, and the intersection is trying to pull them apart. There’s a natural problem that has to be overcome with some kind of tooling. Our automated process uses a braided sleeve to accomplish that function of pulling the members together. The match mode uses the tooling to push the members together.”