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This talk will deal with the processing and manufacturing of fiber reinforced

thermoset matrices.

In the first place we will see the laws for Composite Materials Processing: both
Physical and Constitutive laws
The Introduction to Manufacturing will consist of the differences between open and
closed mold processes as well as the description of the three main steps in composites
manufacturing: impregnation of the fibers, consolidation and curing.
Then, we will analize six manufacturing processes:
Pultrusion: How to produce low cost, constant cross-section parts
Infusion: How to produce large parts with just one smooth surface
RTM: How to produce medium/large parts with two smooth surfaces
SMC: How to produce short cycle time (< 1 min) parts
Prepregging: How to produce high performance parts
Filament Winding: How to produce bodies of revolution

The Physical laws for composites processing or governing equations are based on:
Conservation of Mass
Conservation of Momentum and
Conservation of Energy

The constitutive laws for composites processing or constitutive equations, are
empirical relations between parameters of interest.
The following parameters will be studied:
Resin viscosity
Reaction Kinetics
Fiber Stress

Resin viscosity first decreases with the temperature because of the higher mobility of
the molecules, then increases due to the resin cross-linking

Being an exothermic reaction, the degree of cure is proportional to the fraction of the
network formed.

In liquid molding processes, the resin must flow through a porous medium (preform).
Composite materials follows Darcys law:
The flow rate across the section A equals to the fabric permeability times the area of
the A cross section times the driving pressure gradient divided by the viscosity of the

For high fiber fractions, the interfiber spacing is very small (of the order of microns),
which leads to multiple fiber-fiber contacts when consolidation forces are applied
during processing.
When fiber bundles are under tension like in pultrusion (left), fiber fraction increases
and permeability decreases. In molding, the transverse compression (right) will play a
key role.

When just one smooth surface is needed, an open mold process is usually applied
such as infusion, prepregging, filament winding,.. On the contrary when the two
surfaces must be smooth, a closed mold process must be applied, such as resin
transfer molding, sheet molding compound, pultrusion,
The open mold process characteristics are:
Lower investment
High production volumes are not required since tooling costs are not as high as in
closed molds
Size of the part may be very large

And for closed mold processes:

High quality finish in both surfaces
Emissions are lower
Tighter dimensional tolerances to within 0.12 mm
Cabling and other fittings can be incorporated into the mold designs

Three steps may be distinguished in a composite material process: fiber impregnation,
consolidation by means of an applied pressure and curing. Along this presentation, we
will use the yellow color for fiber impregnation, green color for consolidation and
blue color for curing.

One strategy to be competitive with composites is the use of one shot processes.
This floor pan, results of the research project Tecabs leaded by Volkswagen shows
how the standard metallic floor pan, composed of 28 steel parts may be substituted by
8 preforms and 5 cores, which are processed in just one shot by means of the resin
transfer molding process. When using carbon fiber, the raw materials cost is higher
than steel but one shot composites processing is more advantageous in terms of
integration and assembly. In many cases, the balance is positive for composite
materials against metals.

This slide shows three processes with different types of consolidation:
Consolidation by vacuum bag. Infusion is usually applied to small series (less than
500 parts per year) and large parts. The cycle time ranges between 5 and 180 minutes.
Consolidation by resin pressure. Resin transfer molding or RTM is normally carried
out for series between 500 and 10 000 parts per year and medium size. The cycle time
varies from 3 and 5 minutes.
Consolidation by press. Sheet molding compound or SMC is used for large series
(like automotive) and small size parts. The cycle time is lower than 1 minute.

How to produce low cost, constant cross section parts in an efficient way?

Pultrusion is a continuous process of manufacturing of composite materials with
constant cross-section whereby reinforcing fibers are pulled through a resin and into a
heated die, where the resin undergoes polymerization.

The first pultruded products were long, thin fiberglass reinforced cylinders used in the
manufacture of fiberglass fishing rods. These were manufactured by Ocean City
Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia, starting approximately in 1947.
Most fibers are suitable for this process. Most used are glass and carbon.
Material forms can also be used at the inlet to the die when materials such as mats,
weaves, or stitched materials are used.
Braided/winded preforms may also be utilized.
Hybrid materials such as carbon/glass may be pultruded.
Resins must be fast curing because of process speeds. Most used are polyester, vinyl
ester, epoxy and phenolic. Polyurethane resins and thermoplastics are also utilized.
Higher resin reactivity, lower filler loadings, and thicker parts contribute to higher
exotherms and faster cure, but potentially higher shrinkage.
Resins can also be introduced in the die if perforated metal surfaces are used. Prepregs
are also utilized.
Wood, foams and honeycombs may be used as cores in hollow parts.

The key processing parameters take the following values:

Typical speeds are 0.4 - 1m/min

Wide up to 3 m
Die lengths are 0.6 1.5 m
Fiber Volume fractions range between 30 to 65%
Voids usually range between 1 to 5%
Pulling forces range between 45 to 90 KN

Viscosity and Temperature of a thermosetting resin change along a pultrusion die.
Initially, the viscosity (in red color) decreases due to the increase of the temperature
in the matrix. In a second step, due to the crosslinking of the thermoset matrix the
viscosity increases monotonically until the die exit.
The die temperature (in green color) increases monotonically from the entrance to the
exit. This increase is high at the entrance, compared to the exit area where the increase
is minimum.
The temperature in the fiber-resin system (in blue color) increases initially. In a
second step, the temperature decreases monotonically until the die exit.

Dies are metallic (heated)
Two main types of dies are used: fixed and floating
- Fixed dies can generate large forces to wet fibers
- Floating dies require an external power source to create the hydraulic forces in
the resin.
Multiple dies are used when curing is to be done by the heated dies.

There are four typical methods of impregnation:

1) Open bath. Simple but styrene emissions can be a problem.

Resin must have low viscosity.
2) Enclosed bath. Fiber reinforcement is not bent.
Styrene emissions are reduced.
3) Injection. Die temperature must be closely controlled.
Eliminates the styrene emission problem
4) Preimpregnated reinforcements. The ADP process (JAMCO) begins with prepreg
rolls, which are sent to a heating and pressing die, then a curing oven. From there, the
product enters a pulling device. An edge-trimming machine then cuts and trims the

Some typical applications are:
A. Ladder rails (glass/polyester)
B. Offshore grating (glass/phenolic)
C. Bridge decks (glass/vinylester)
D. Floor beams for the upper deck of the Airbus A380 (carbon/epoxy)

A major problem of the pultruded parts is their constant cross-section.
Pulshaping, developed by Pultrusion Dynamics is an improvement with respect to
traditional pultrusion.
Sliding parts in the die and molding after pultruding the part are some strategies to get
variable cross-sections.

How to produce large parts with just one smooth surface in an efficient way?

In the infusion process, the impregnation of the fibers is carried out by means of
vacuum pressure. The part is consolidated by means of the vacuum bag and the mold
is usually heated for curing purposes.

This process presents the following pros and cons:
*High fiber fraction may be achieved
*Large components can be fabricated
*Similar to RTM, except that this has pressure and 2 molded finish surfaces
*Much lower tooling cost due to one half of the tool being a vacuum bag
*Less strength being required in the main tool
*Standard wet lay-up tools may be able to be modified for this process
*Cored structures can be produced in one operation.
*Honeycomb cannot be processed
*Relatively complex process to perform well
*Resins must be very low in viscosity, thus reducing mechanical properties
*Unimpregnated areas can occur resulting in very expensive scrap parts
*Some elements of this process are covered by patents (SCRIMP)

The main difference between RTM and infusion is that the vacuum bag substitutes the counter mold.
Fabrics are laid up as a dry stack of materials as in RTM. The fiber stack is then covered with peel ply
and a fabric. The whole dry stack is then vacuum bagged, and once bag leaks have been eliminated,
resin is allowed to flow into the laminate. The resin distribution over the whole laminate is aided by
resin flowing easily through the fabric, and wetting the fabric out from above.

The four main types of infusion are the following:
a) Longitudinal flow, used for small parts
b) Transverse flow with surface medium, used for large parts
c) Transverse flow with grooved cores, used for large parts, is heavier than transverse
d) Transverse interlaminar flow, used for large parts, also is heavier than transverse

The most common types are a) Longitudinal flow and b) Transverse flow with surface

Longitudinal Flow
When the injection length is short, longitudinal flow infusion may be applied. The
preform is placed in the molds and the vacuum bag is sealed. The resin flows in the
space between plies (longitudinal direction). The vacuum removes the air trapped and
makes the resin flow.
This is a basic and low-cost infusion process
Requires low permeability fabrics
Also, the resin viscosity must be low ( 20 400 cps)

In infusion and RTM processes, the resin flow is a function of the viscosity of the
resin, permeability of the fabric and the processing pressure. The relationship between
these variables is given by Darcys Law.
By using this equation, the permeability of a fabric or preform may be determined
from the curve flow / pressure.

Transverse Flow
The resin is distributed through an external system, usually a thermoplastic net, which
has very low permeability. By means of this thermoplastic net, very large parts may be
molded. The resin flows through the net and impregnates the fabric by means of the
transverse flow.
Fiber fractions are higher than the obtained with longitudinal flow.
The final composite material has higher quality.
A peel ply is needed to separate the distribution nets.
Higher viscosity resins may be used.
Cost of auxiliary materials is higher.
The process is more repetitive.

Marine, wind turbine blades and large vessels are typical applications of infusion.

Future trends in infusion are:
Implementation of hybrid materials: glass and carbon
Implementation of hybrid processes: infusion and prepregging
An example in wind turbine blades is the use of a cured prepreg inside the preform,
making infusion afterwards, taking advantage of both processes

How to produce medium/large parts with two smooth surfaces in an efficient

In the resin transfer molding process (RTM) the impregnation of the fibers is carried
out by means of the resin pressure. The part is consolidated due to the resin pressure
as well and the mold is usually heated for curing purposes, also the part may be cured
in an oven.

RTM or Resin Transfer Molding: After placing the reinforcement preform between
mold and countermold, the mold is closed and the resin is injected under low pressure,
wetting the fibers. Vacuum is commonly used to assist the injection, in this case, the
process is called VARTM (Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding).
Fiber volume ranges 50-70% in aerospace and 25-60% in non-aerospace
2- and 3-D fiber preforms of carbon, aramid, glass and hybrids are used
Low viscosity resins are desirable (between 100 and 500 cps), usually are less than
200 cps
Injection pressure ranges between 7 and 35 bars
Resin pot life must be long enough, usually 2 hours at room temperature
Multiple injection ports are used to assure complete wet out
Mold-in inserts and fittings are placed before injection
10-28 in Hg vacuum is added to the resin pressure in VARTM
Rubber inserts may be used to provide very high compaction
Cure temperature is usually less than 180C
Cure time ranges from 4 min to 1 hour

Types of RTM:
RTM Standard: countermold solid, pressures up to 7 bars. High cost of mold, high
performance, long series
RTM Light: countermold flexible, pressures 2-4 bars. Lower cost of mold than
standard, medium series.
Closed cavity bag molding: countermold is a reusable silicone bag, pressure about 2
bars. Lowest cost of mold, long series.
Infusion: countermold is a vacuum bag, pressure < 1 bar. Lowest cost of mold,
increasingly used.

Five main processing steps may be distinguished in the resin transfer molding process:
1. Placing the preform: After applying a mold release agent and the gel coat, the fiber
is placed over the lower mold. When the geometry of the preform is complex, a
previous step called preform is needed, by means of the preforming, the fibers are
shaped, then placed over the lower mold.
2. Closing the upper mold
3. Injection of the resin, usually around 7 bars.
4. Curing
5. Demolding

Drape may be defined as the ability of a fabric to conform to a contoured surface. The
fiber architecture is critical to obtain a good drapability. 8-H satin is more efficient
that twill and this is more efficient that the standard plain fabric in terms of

Types of preforms in terms of permeability:
Closed fabric, low permeability, the resin flows slowly.
Open fabric, high permeability, the resin flows fast.
Standard fabric, medium permeability, the resin flows at a speed between closed and
open fabrics.

The RTM process is a liquid process, therefore requires low viscosity resins to get an
adequate flow and good wetability of the resin (between 50 and 300 cps). A low
viscosity resin may be reached by adding additives or by heating the resin.

RTM applications are present in automotive (short series), marine, industrial vehicles
and military applications

The use of 3-D preforms, such as 3D braided, 3D knitted or stitched makes the
laminate more balanced in terms of mechanical properties in longitudinal and
transverse directions.
Since delamination is a critical failure mode in the Allison Engine model AE 3007, the
new vane design comprises a 3-D core preform that features through-thickness Z-
fibers to help prevent delaminations and, in general, produce a more robust part. The
preform is overwrapped with one ply of woven material to provide a smooth,
aerodynamic surface, and the part incorporates a metal leading edge. The RTM kit is
thus much simpler than the current 26-piece kit, resulting in a much simpler layup

How to produce short cycle time (< 1 min) parts in an efficient way?

This SMC or Sheet Molding Compound process may be divided in two phases:
First, a sheet called SMC is produced.
Second, this sheet is consolidated and cured in a hot press

SMC or Sheet Molding Compound is a combination of chopped glass strands and
filled polyester resin, in the form of a sheet. The additives allow the compound to be
stored for months before processing.
Processing of SMC by compression or injection molding enables the production of
bodywork automotive components.

Their main characteristics are:

Good dimensional stability
Excellent finishing (both sides)
Parts with complex geometries
Highly automated process
Very short cycle process (1 minute)
High production volumes
Apt for automotive part processing
Secondary operations required
High capital equipment
Short fibers, low volume fraction, therefore non-structural parts

There are three types of SMC in terms of its density:
STANDARD SMC -1.9 g/cc. Usually, the part weights 55% less than steel.
LOW DENSITY - 1.3 g/cc. Is loaded with glass spheres, the part usually weights
75% less than steel. Not apt for exterior parts because of poor finishing. Is used in
interior applications such as floor, hoods, doors (Corvette Chevrolet).
LITE SMC -1.6 g/cc. Is loaded with calcium carbonate. The part usually weights
65% less than steel. Is being applied to front and rear hoods (Dodge Viper, Lincoln
Continental, Ford Mustang).

Typical SMC is 0.6 mm thick and comes in rolls 1 2 m wide
The viscosity after aging goes from 100 poise to 10,000-100,000 poise.
Fiber content ranges from 30 to 60% in weight. Glass and carbon are used.
Fiber are 25 75 mm long.
Polyester resin is the most used, though vinyl ester, epoxy and phenolic may be used
as well.

The SMC under pressure and temperature is molded in very short cycle times, about 1
Calcium carbonate, aluminum trihydrates of kaolins reduce cost and shrinkage
Mold release agents such as zinc or calcium sterates are often added
Thickeners such as magnesium or calcium oxides can be added to increase viscosity
and improve flow characteristics
Layers of SMC are stacked into charges, the charge size is usually 40-70% smaller
than the project mold surface.

There are many applications in the automotive sector, where low cycles (<1 minute),
excellent finishing and low cost are required.

Carbon fiber SMC is an interesting material system for automotive parts due to the
high performance of the carbon fibers and SMCs short cycle time. Using short fibers
has a penalty in weight compared to continuous fibers.

How to produce high performance parts in an efficient way?

A prepreg is a subproduct in which the fiber is impregnated with resin. The
polymerization reaction evolves but very slowly, its kinetics being controlled.
The prepreg may remain in a state B or semicured for several months at low
temperatures (-20 C)
The cure evolves slowly at room temperature, therefore, the collation does not have
any problems.
The cure evolves fast at high temperature, therefore the cycle time is reasonable.
Epoxy Is the most common system for high performance applications:
aeronautics and space. Curing time is 2 4 hours.
Vinyl ester Curing time is short; 10 -20 minutes, is used for sporting goods. It has
been developed recently
Phenolic When fire and smoke requirements, low mechanical properties, is used
for aircraft and railcar interiors.

The pros and cons of prepregging are the following:
The composite material is controlled in terms of thickness and fiber fraction, which is
very high, about 70% in volume. Porosity is very low (< 1%).
Processing is easy since the resin is already present in the prepreg.
Mechanical performance is very high, due to the high fiber fraction and control.
Refrigerated storage and transportation are required.
Cost of the parts made out of prepregs are higher than other processes since two steps
are needed for their processing: production of the prepreg and manufacturing of the

The production scheme is composed of seven operations:
First, the prepregs must be cut
Second, the prepregs are placed over the mold
Third, the laminate is consolidated by means of the vacuum bag
Forth, the composite material is cured (by applying pressure and temperature) in an
Fifth, the laminates are trimmed and machined
Sixth, the prepregs are inspected to check if there is any delamination inside the
Finally, the component is assembled.

After ply collation the lay-up is sealed in a plastic bag for curing. The lay-out is
composed of the following components:
Release agent: facilitates the extraction of the part
Peel ply: leaves the part surface apt to be bonded or painted
Release film: prevents the resin to reach the bleeder fabric but not the volatiles
Bleeder fabric: takes out the excess of resin in order to get the desired fiber fraction
Breather fabric: makes the vacuum uniform along the part.
Vacuum bag/seal: seals the cavity to be vacuumed

At the beginning the viscosity falls due to the temperature increase and therefore the
higher mobility of the molecules . At a given point, the crosslinking makes the
viscosity increase. In this moment, the pressure cycle starts. When the material is
cured, temperature and pressure cycles finish.

Advantages and disadvantages of Prepregs versus RTM

Advantages and disadvantages of RTM versus Prepregs

Marine, aeronautics, wind turbine blades and high performance sport goods are typical
applications of prepregs.

Fiber Placement (FP) is an automated process to place fibers on the mold. It is used
for large and complex geometry parts, since it requires a very large capital equipment.
It gives high accuracy in orientations and positions of fibers, reduces time, labor cost
(80%) and production waste and press the laminate in a uniform way.
Automated tape laying (ATL) is used for large flat or mildly contoured parts.

How to produce bodies of revolution, such as cylinders, cones and spheres in an
efficient way?

In the filament winding process, the consolidation ( fiber tension ) is carried out by
pulling the fibers through a number of fiber guides
In-line impregnation is done by drawing the fibers through a bath of resin
The part is usually cured by oven
High rate process in which a continuous fiber band is placed on a rotating male
mandrel. Lay-down rates as high as 50 200 kg/h are possible.
Sized range from 25 mm diameter (golf shafts) to 6 m diameter.
Thick-walled structures can be built in a highly repeatable way.
Almost any body of revolution such as cylinders, cones and spheres may be
Reinforcements are continuous and their orientations are variable, obtaining high
performance structures. Typical fiber tensions values range between 1 to 4.5 N.
Fibers (rovings, monofilaments of prepregs) can reach up to 70% of volume fraction
due to the low viscosity resins (2000 cps). Pot life and cure temperature are also
critical in this process.

The filament winding process may be divided in six phases:
First, the fibers are pulled from the spool
Second, impregnation is done by drawing the fibers through a bath of resin
Third, fiber tension is carried out is carried out by pulling the fibers through a number
of fiber guides
Forth, by means of the linear movement of the feeder and the circular movement of
the mold, the fibers impregnated with resin are winded around the mold
Fifth, the part is cured
Finally, the part is demolded.

There are three main variants in terms of winding patterns:
a) Helical winding, the most versatile and the most used.
b) Polar winding, a constant winding speed can be used and the reverse or the carriage
is not necessary. 2 axes of motion: mandrel and winding arm, simple but length-to-
diameter ratio < 2.
c) Hoop winding, the fibers are wound circumferentially, the bands being adjacent to
each other. The simplest, usually is combined with helical or polar

Helical winder machines may have as many as six axes of movement:
1) Mandrel rotation, generally constant
2) Carriage linear movement, also generally constant
3) Horizontal cross-feed, used to position the winding pay-out band close to the part
at the end domes
4) Vertical cross-feed, same as horizontal
5) Pay-out rotation, used to allow the winding pay-out to keep the band normal to the
winding surface
6) Yaw, used to allow the pay-out band to be rotated in a 90 plane to give additional
control over the band placement

Filament winding is a process used in high performance applications: carbon/epoxy

This process is also used in glass fiber applications in chemical, oil and water
industries: glass/epoxy, glass/vinyl ester and glass/polyester

See above