This paper reports a study of a method for achieving ultra-lightweight thermoplastic composites referred to as tow-spreading technology, whereby a conventional 12k carbon fibre (CF) tow is thinned by increasing the tow width from 5 mm to approximately 25 mm, thereby reducing the weight per unit area by approximately 500%. Using the tow-spreading technology, sheets of unidirectional and/or woven fabric may be produced. Thermoplastic film of polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) was used to stabilise and impregnate the spread tow fabric, converting it into a partially consolidated prepreg; woven 12k CF spread tow/PPS (55/45 wt%). A consolidated laminate was then made from the prepreg, and for comparison, a second laminate was produced from a conventional woven prepreg of 3k CF/PPS (60/40 wt%). The spread tow laminate exhibited better fibre packing, lower level of crimp, lower void content and improved mechanical properties.
El-Dessouky, H. M., & Lawrence, C. A. (2013). Ultra-lightweight carbon fibre/thermoplastic composite material using spread tow technology. Composites Part B: Engineering, 50, 91-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compositesb.2013.01.026