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Cure characterization of Cycom 977-2A carbon/epoxy composites for quickstep processing



In this effort, Quickstep, a relatively a new technique, have been employed for manufacturing of composite materials. The cure schedule provided by a prepreg manufacturer is usually designed for autoclave or other traditional processing techniques and thermosetting resin systems are formulated for ramp rate curing 2–3 K min−1. While in case of Quickstep processing, ramp rates of 15 K min−1 can be achieved, thus changing the chemorheology of resin. The cure process of 977-2A carbon/epoxy composites was evaluated for Quickstep processing using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), dynamic mechanical and thermal analysis, and Fourier transformed infrared and results were compared with cure cycle employed for autoclave curing. Optimum hold time for Quickstep processing at upper curing temperature (180°C) was determined using DSC. The hold time of 120 min at 180°C was found to be suitable for Quickstep cure cycle, producing a panel of similar degree of cure to that achieved through autoclave processing schedule. Final degree of cure was dependent on time spent at upper cure temperature and slightly on initial steps of the cure cycle which was used to control the resin flow, fiber wetting, and void removal. Quickstep processed samples exhibited higher Tg and crosslink density and similar molecular network structure to the autoclave cured samples. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 54:887–898, 2014. © 2013 Society of Plastics Engineers