To fully exploit the potential of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites (FRTC) and to achieve a broad industrial
application, automated manufacturing systems are crucial. Investigations at Fraunhofer IPT have proven that the use of
laser system technology in processing FRTC allows to achieve high throughput, quality, flexibility, reproducibility and
out-of-autoclave processing simultaneously. As 90% of the FRP in Europe1 are glass fiber-reinforced a high impact can
be achieved by introducing laser-assisted processing with all its benefits to glass fiber-reinforced thermoplastics
Fraunhofer IPT has developed the diode laser-assisted tape placement (laying and winding) to process carbon fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composites (CFRTC) for years. However, this technology cannot be transferred unchanged to process milky transparent GFRTC prepregs (preimpregnated fibers). Due to the short wavelength (approx. 980 nm) and therefore high transmission less than 20% of the diode laser energy is absorbed as heat into non-colored GFRTC prepregs. Hence, the use of a different wave length, e.g. CO2-laser (10.6 μm) with more than 90% laser absorption, is required to allow the full potential of laser-assisted processing of GFRTC. Also the absorption of CO2-laser radiation at the surface compared to volume absorption of diode laser radiation is beneficial for the interlaminar joining of GFRTC. Fraunhofer IPT is currently developing and investigating the CO2-laser-assisted tape placement including new system, beam guiding, process and monitoring technology to enable a resource and energy efficient mass production of GFRP composites, e.g. pipes, tanks, masts. The successful processing of non-colored glass fiber-reinforced Polypropylene (PP) and Polyphenylene Sulfide (PPS) has already been proven.