Lab Canada

Industrial research chair gets $3M to design new composite material technologies

Montreal, QC – Funding of more than $3 million over the next five years will help Dr Franois Trochu and his team at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique to develop and commercialize new technologies for moulding lightweight composite materials for the automotive industry. General Motors of Canada is contributing $1.25 million, while NSERC and the Canada Research Chairs program will contribute $1 million each.

“GM Canada’s engineering know-how, combined with the expertise of Professor Trochu and his team (which comprises research associates, technicians and a dozen students) will contribute to our country’s competitiveness in the automotive sector,” says Robert L Papineau, director general of Ecole Polytechnique. “The fundamental research we are involved in will look to find a scientific solution for manufacturing lightweight composite parts in the volumes and cost required by the auto industry.”

“In addition, Ecole Polytechnique is one of just eight universities we have invited to be a founding member of GM’s new Canadian Automotive Innovation Network. Together with automotive engineering students, researchers, suppliers and automotive parts purchasers like General Motors, to accelerate the commercialization of new R&D in an effort to put great ideas on the road faster,” says David Paterson, vice-president, corporate and environmental affairs, with GM of Canada.

The team will study various polymer composites that offer great potential as lightweight and corrosion-free materials for industrial applications. The emergence of optimized and low-cost methods to manufacture high-performance composites is a major scientific and technological challenge. It is also of great industrial relevance, especially in the automotive sector to produce lightweight body parts at a competitive cost and high volume.

One of the main objectives of the new chair will be to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of a new flexible injection-moulding process known as Polyflex, which was developed by Dr Trochu and Edu Ruiz, a new faculty member at Ecole Polytechnique. They anticipate that Polyflex will provide a radically innovative and cost-effective way of overcoming many of the deficiencies currently associated with composite manufacturing.

“Polyflex permits a highly controlled increase in the manufacturing speed of thermosetting polymer panels reinforced by continuous glass or carbon fibres,” says Professor Trochu. “Many different parameters can be controlled; most notably the flexibility of the mould wall and the temperature of the resin Polyflex will enable the manufacture of more complex and better- integrated parts. The challenge is to accelerate the development of this new injection technology to eventually compete with currently existing processes involving metal sheet stamping.”