Composite laminates can be redesigned, repurposed, and reused utilizing an incorporated composite hinge. By ablating the resin, the reinforcement becomes an integrated novel hinge concept, named CF-Lex™, within the laminate. Using a computer guided laser, specific patterns and designs can be implemented within composite materials. These hinges can be created in a single ply or in thicker laminates depending on the strength required. In addition to utilizing this technology as a hinge, a matrix reinforcement can be reapplied to the ablated area to form the composite into a new shape. By reapplying the matrix, new designs can be created with a more complex geometry. These integrated hinges have been used for many years in the fields of packaging and sheet metal design.
Integrating the manufacturing capabilities of these fields with composite technologies widens the possibilities for future applications. Previous molding techniques limit geometries in which composites can be formed, but with the implementation of a flexible portion, the molding capabilities of composites increase. Applications of the hinge technology range from simple wallets and folders to potentially complex designs for bike frames, automobile parts, and airplane components. The replacement of a standard metal hinge with an integrated carbon fiber hinge reduces weight and complexity of an assembly, while increasing its strength by eliminating the need for bolt holes and adhesives. Overall, the hinge technology opens the door to countless opportunities for new designs in the composites space.
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