High-Performance Composites

MAR 2013

High-Performance Composites is read by qualified composites industry professionals in the fields of continuous carbon fiber and other high-performance composites as well as the associated end-markets of aerospace, military, and automotive.

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debut: Automotive Composites Roof and hood tools can run in any Globe press at the Walker and Wixom sites. Most notably, Plasan developed Coupling Recognition System (CRS): When a part's tool is plugged into the press, the CRS not only automatically identifies what part the tool is designed to mold, but it also queues up the "cure recipe" (process settings) for optimum production, effectively providing plug-and-play functionality. Maximizing the molding process Each part is hand layed in its NVD tool on an indexing table outside the press, using prepreg from a robotically cut kit produced in another part of the facility. "Unfortunately, the technology doesn't exist yet to do automated layup of very complex geometric parts with the compound sweeps that you find in automotive," says Lownsdale. "We've successfully automated layup of simple parts, and the ability to translate that to more complex designs is one of the goals we're chasing to continually decrease total cycle time." When layup is complete, the canopy is pulled down over the part and smoothed into place. Then the table indexes into the press chamber, and its front and rear doors close. A pressure box (slightly larger than the tool) descends from above, sealing off the top and sides of the tool and bladder. A vacuum is drawn, and a "very small column of air" completely surrounds the tool and bladder inside the box. Pressure is applied to the top of the box (and, therefore, the air column) by a hydraulic ram. In this sealed environment (which doesn't require nitrogen because the process tightly controls exotherm) the tool surface rapidly heats, enabling resin to flow quickly before crosslinking begins. This accounts for a much-improved surface finish. Using conventional resin and laminate technology, Plasan can achieve a 10-minute cycle time with a six-minute cure, says Staargaard. But in practice the press maintains a "balanced" 17-minute cycle to avoid overproducing parts and getting ahead of the bonding, trimming and finishing stations. The process eliminates the expense of vacuum bagging materials and uses a small fraction of the energy consumed in an autoclave cycle. And the part's excellent as-molded surface has accelerated downstream operations by 80 percent. Although he is pleased, Lownsdale says the benchmark is injection-molded surface quality and speed. To that end, Plasan is working closely with major resin and prepreg producers. Moving into the mainstream "It's absolutely possible to make CFRP components mass producible in the auto industry," Lownsdale sums up. "Now, when we sit down and talk seriously about a CFRP component, our customer no longer says, Prove it to me and I'll consider it, but rather says, How can we work together to make this happen? One call. One source. Composites One. One call to Composites One puts you in touch with raw materials, process knowledge and supply chain solutions meeting all your advanced composites needs. It connects you with dedicated specialists and technical experts who can handle your complex requirements, from raw fiber through the entire process of weaving, prepregging, and kit cutting, into product that's ready to fabricate. It gives you access to 30 local distribution centers and a fleet of delivery trucks. Plus the back-end support, regulatory assistance and value-added services that can help drive new business growth. That's the power of one. Composites One. Learn More @ www.compositesworld.com Read an extended verison of this article online at http://short.compositesworld.com/V4Ty5Iv4. Link to previously published articles about the development of Plasan Carbon Composites' pressure press technology at http://short. compositesworld.com/m5tTYbcD. 800.621.8003 www.compositesone.com www.b2bcomposites.com See us at Booth #I26 at SAMPE in Long Beach, CA, May 6-9 and at Booth #3121 at WINDPOWER 2013 in Chicago, IL, May 5-8. march 2013 | 45

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