The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded the University of Delaware Center for Composite Materials (UD-CCM) a $14.9M three-year cooperative agreement for the Tailorable Feedstock and Forming (TFF) Program.
The objective of this program is to develop a novel low-cost carbon-fiber composite feedstock and manufacturing process. The new material, called TuFF (tailorable universal feedstock for forming), may potentially revolutionize the use of composite materials world-wide, as a cost-effective replacement for small metal parts meeting aerospace performance requirements.
The feedstock will consist of carbon fiber in a thermoplastic matrix with improved microstructural design, creating thin ply sheets that optimize formability of single and doubly curved parts with aerospace grade mechanical properties and damage tolerance.
Under the leadership of director Jack Gillespie, UD-CCM seeks establish a semi-automated pilot plant to produce TuFF starting with carbon fiber precursors and ending with net-shape zero-waste formable feedstock blanks. The aim of the pilot plant is to demonstrate the feasibility and scale-up of novel technologies developed through this program with capacity to supply TuFF feedstock to designated industries for evaluation and prototype development.
The success of TuFF as a new material is expected to be transformative for complex curvature composite structures for aerospace and automotive applications in the defense and commercial sectors.
“UD-CCM is excited to lead a team of composite experts from Clemson University, Drexel University and Virginia Tech to develop a new composite material and manufacturing process,” said Rob Adkinson, TuFF program manager.
“Bypassing all of the manufacturing problems associated with advanced composites, our approach will allow us for the first time to make composite parts having aerospace properties at automotive prices.”