Did you know that the first composites were made 4,000 years ago out of mud and straw? Today, manufacturers use 65,000 to 85,000 metric tons of carbon fiber composite materials each year.
With the exponential increase in composite material used, it’s key to stay informed. Continue reading this article to learn about composite science and technology.
The Importance of Composite Materials
Composite materials provide a unique benefit to the manufacturing process. Carbon composites offer strong, durable, lightweight products that conform to design specifications.
Carbon fiber reinforced polymers (CFRPs) have revolutionized the engineering process. Because of CFRPs, specific automotive and aerospace components now weigh less. This translates into lower suspension requirements, smaller wheels, tires, and engines.
Corrosion-resistant carbon fiber components decrease expenses and streamline the manufacturing process. They also provide longer lifespans.
Composite Science and Technology
It’s important to understand the science and technology used to create these composites. Therefore, the process includes several steps.
Prepregs contain composite reinforced materials such as carbon fibers pre-impregnated with activated resin. So, these resins include hardeners. Creating composite parts often involves the layering of prepregs into a mold.
The composite resin mold is then placed inside an autoclave. Then heated to the “cure temperature” causing the resin to react and cure.
Out of Autoclave Curing
Some parts, especially those in the aerospace industry, are too large for an autoclave. Thus, out-of-autoclave curing procedures provide alternate solutions.
Creating void-free composite parts involves two critical factors. The process must guarantee air evacuation and maintain quality.
Out-of-autoclave prepregs contain two outer surfaces layered with resin films. The center partially impregnated with the resin forms a dry fiber interior. This prepreg structure decreases air entrapment between stacked prepregs during room temperature. curing
At room temperature, optimal out-of-autoclave resins should:
- Have lower reactivity to avoid cold flow
- Retain the porous areas to allow air evacuation at elevated temperatures
- Rapidly decrease in viscosity to allow impregnation of porous areas before gelation
To decrease internal voids, it’s vital to balance the resin flow and gel time. This means maintaining the proper temperature throughout the curing process.
After applying the composite material to a bladder, it’s placed inside a female cavity mold. The mold is then clamped shut and heated to cure the part.
During curing, air pressure forces the laminate against the outer cavity. As a result, this consolidates it inside the mold creating a strong, light, hollow structure.
Cast molding is an efficient method for generating multiple identical components. At the same time, this method allows for modifications without impacting production.
After creating the casting mold(s), they’re filled with the composite material. The material cures and the mold is then removed and reused. This generates lower tooling and manufacturing costs.
Compression molding involves placing the prepreg into the female mold cavity. Then compressed with the male mold cavity.
Molds begin preheating to specific curing temperatures reducing curing cycle times. Therefore, this allows cure times ranging from 3 to 25 minutes.
Cost-Efficient Manufacturing Solutions
Advanced technologies provide efficient production of high-quality components to meet your needs. This article gave an overview of state-of-the-art composite science and technology.
SMI is a leader in the carbon fiber and composite automotive and aerospace industry. As well as committed to providing quality parts and services to our customers.
SMI manufactures their own tools in-house. This allows them to provide exceptional quality control. Their products serve both structural and decorative purposes.
In conclusion, we are ready to tackle your project, no matter how big or small. Contact us today to learn more about our services.