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Tooling and processing for efficient and high tolerance prepreg composite manufacturing

Time: Wed 2022-06-08 09.00

Location: F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26 & 28, Stockholm

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Aerospace Engineering

Doctoral student: Tommy Grankäll , Farkostteknik och Solidmekanik

Opponent: Professor Simon Bickerton, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Supervisor: Malin Åkermo, Farkostteknik och Solidmekanik; Per Hallander,

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QC 220512


Composite use is normally motivated in aircraft design by improved weight-specific mechanical properties as compared to metals. However, fatigue and dielectric properties may also be critical for material selection. In the modern world the environmental footprint, with reduced emissions in focus, will be lighter with the successful use of composites. Flight safety is the most important requirement for the aerospace industry. In order to benefit from the important properties which ensure the necessary performance of the aircraft, part materials must be according to material specification. This is not unique to the composite materials. However, since the composite material is often created simultaneously with the composite part, the manufacturing processes used are even more critical for a composite part than for a metal part. Tooling is required for most of the process steps in composite part manufacturing. The large number of tools required to complete a composite part and the relatively small series involved in most composite applications render tooling cost a major contributor to final part cost. This is especially true in the aeronautical field considering the high-quality requirements as concerns shape accuracy and laminate quality, as well as low production rates with annual production ranging from a few dozen to the rare thousands of parts. Since tooling adds a substantial contribution to the part cost, it is imperative to be aware of the different options available for each process step and how these affect process stability and cost. Göte Strindberg, a former technical director at Saab, often said “Ninety-nine per cent right can be one hundred per cent wrong in a composite manufacturing process”. Finding the correct parameters for the last per cent is key to composite part success. This has been the overall goal of this project. The beginning of the project focused on both process and tooling related improvements for hot-forming of prepreg laminates enabling new opportunities and improved ergonomics. The research results in improvements in laminate quality, for example, reduced thickness variation, and a significant increase in process efficiency. One conclusion is that an 80% reduction of cycle time can be achieved with maintained, or even improved, laminate quality. A novel method for compensation of forming tools is also presented. Research then continued with cure tool related issues. Shape fidelity and durability for composite cure tools was studied with the combined outcome of an in-depth understanding of composite cure tool performance at the elevated temperature and moisture conditions present during the use of the tools.