Elevated-temperature vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding process for high performance aerospace composites

Authors


Correspondence to: K. Chandrashekhara, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO 65409, USA., E-mail: chandra@mst.edu

Abstract

Vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) is commonly used for general temperature applications (<150 °C) such as boat hulls and secondary aircraft structures. With growing demands for applications of composites in elevated temperature environments, significant cost savings can be achieved by employing the VARTM process. However, implementation of the VARTM process for fabricating elevated temperature composites presents unique challenges such as high porosity and low fiber volume contents. In the present work, a low cost and reliable VARTM process is developed to manufacture elevated temperature composites for aerospace applications. Modified single vacuum bagging infusion and double vacuum bagging infusion processes were evaluated. Details of the method to obtain high quality composite parts and the challenging issues related to the manufacturing process are presented. Density and fiber volume fraction testing of manufactured panels showed that high quality composite parts with void content less than 1% have been consistently manufactured. A property database of the resin system and the composites was developed. A three-dimensional mathematical model has also been developed for flow simulation and implemented in the ABAQUS finite element package code to predict the resin flow front during the infusion process and to optimize the flow parameters. The results of the present study indicate that aircraft grade composite parts with high fiber volume fractions can be manufactured using the developed elevated temperature VARTM process. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry

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