In today’s market there is a growing demand for robust, durable and lightweight materials. This has many industries turning to composites as an alternative to the materials they have been using.
Fiber-reinforced polymers often face challenges and composite fabrication provides a solution. There are various composite fabrication methods and your decision is dependent on the material, design, and the application of the composite.
Creating with Composites
Composite manufacturing refers to using fiber-reinforced with a resin matrix to create products that are both lightweight and strong. Alongside these impressive physical properties, composites offer great economic benefits and reduced fabrication costs. Excellent strength-to-weight ratios make composites ideal for use in aerospace and related industries. Composites are often used for aerostructures as they are lightweight, weathertight, rust-resistant and unaffected by chemicals in the environment. With innovative, leading-edge composites, such as carbon fiber-reinforced epoxy, we can design and precisely fabricate complex parts for your aerospace needs.
Top-quality composite manufacturing is found in some of the most advanced satellites, rockets, airplanes and helicopters for commercial or military defense uses. Whether you require a fiberglass composite, an aramid (Kevlar) fabrication or other custom composite parts, we’re ready to help you create products to make your project soar.
Composite Manufacturing Processes
There are three types of composite manufacturing processes which include open molding, closed molding, and cast polymer molding.
Open Molding Processes
This method uses open air curing to create a composite (a resin matrix with fiber reinforcement). Procedures include:
– Wet Hand Lay-up: Wet hand lay-up is done manually with a roller/brush, making it an economical composite fabrication option for aircraft parts, from small components to huge items, such as storage tanks. An experienced technician is key to creating detailed composite parts, with complex shapes that would be more difficult to achieve using a more automated molding method.
– Chopping or Spray-up: Ideal for high-quantity projects, this automated open-molding process uses a specialized chopping gun to chop supporting fibers to size, while air pressure forces resin through the gun. A catalyst is used inside the gun to initiate hardening (curing). The catalyzed resin-fiber mixture is then sprayed onto the mold. Before curing is finished, the material is rolled to remove any voids or bubbles.
– Automated Filament Winding: This is a robotic method for fabricating high-strength, hollow items. Fiber filament (pre-coated with a resin matrix) is twisted around a spinning, cylinder-shaped mold. By adjusting the winding angle, engineers can adjust the performance specs for a specific tensile strength or other desired characteristics. Filament winding can be used to fabricate engine casings, piping and more.
Closed Molding Processes
In this automatic process, resin and fiber harden in a vacuum bag or an enclosed airtight mold. Closed molding is typically used to fabricate high-volume orders of components. Processes include:
– Vacuum Bag Molding: Here, a vacuum process offers added strength when bonding multiple fiber layers and resin. The result is an efficiently compacted laminate without extra resin or air bubbles that might otherwise appear (if done by hand in open molding).
– VIP – Vacuum Infused Processing: Vacuum pressure pushes resin into laminate to create extremely large, yet low weight and resilient, product components. VIP is an economical process with lower emissions than open molding.
– RTM – Resin Transfer Molding (or Liquid Molding): To create intricate, smooth-surfaced components, this closed-molding injection process forces pressurized resin into a mold pre-loaded with fiber.
– Continuous Compression Molding: Compression molding produces consistently sized and precisely shaped fiberglass components in a quick, automatic cycle. The process involves high temperature pressure curing of the part between two molds. This type of molding is excellent for components with holes, for example, eliminating the need for later machining.
– Pultrusion: Continuous threads of reinforcing fiber are saturated by running them through a tub of resin and high-temperature metal molds to create lengthy, strong rods, shafts, pipes and more.
– RRIM – Reinforced Reaction Injection Molding: RRIM combines glass fiber with multiple independently heated resins, condensed and compacted through injection molding. This fast curing and quick cycling method produces little waste and is typically automated for further efficiency and cost savings.
– Centrifugal Casting: This fabrication method is ideal for large, smooth and hollow components, such as piping. Materials are placed into a revolving cylindrical mold and cured via centrifugal force.
– Continuous Lamination: This fabrication process traps resin and fibers in between two layers of plastic molding, with large rollers creating sheets of material. The product is then heat-cured and cut to the proper dimensions.
Cast Polymer Molding
This process is usually used to produce parts that don’t have fiber reinforcement and require a specific strength requirement depending on its application.
-Gel Coated Cultured Stone Molding: is a specialized polyester resin that provides a cosmetic outer surface on a composite product, this provides weatherability for outdoor products.
-Solid Surface Molding: are solid surface products or densified products, consisting of a cast matrix without a gel-coated surface.
Aerospace Composite Manufacturing
For large-scale commercial clients and small, specialized firms, our fully-integrated company offers a seamless flow through all phases of your aerospace, rotorcraft or defense project. Our expert team of engineers work efficiently and quickly, while delivering the high quality composite fabrication that commercial aerospace and defense industries require.