Carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP) are considered the king of lightweight construction materials in terms of both properties and costs. They are valued for their extremely high compressive and tensile strength in automobile and airplane structures, where they contribute to significant weight reduction by replacing heavier metals. By helping to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, CFRP does its part to conserve resources and protect the environment. One disadvantage until now, however, is the difficulty and cost involved in repairing damaged CFRP components, so they are often simply replaced as a unit. Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) is presenting a laser-based process for repairing and recycling carbon fiber composites for the first time at HANNOVER MESSE 2014.
With this process, a laser first removes the damaged area bit by bit, and the resulting hole is filled with precisely formed replacement pieces. This contactless system operates with extreme precision and without the costly tool wear of current processes. Lasers can also help make original manufacturing processes for components more sustainable. The scrap that always results from fabrication with composite materials can be recycled using another process developed by LZH, which uses laser beams to separate the scrap into rovings. These bundles of a few thousand carbon fibers can then be reused to produce new CFRP components.