Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding of Foam Sandwich Composite Materials: Process Development and Model Verification
McGrane, Rebecca Ann
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Vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) is a low cost resin infusion process being developed for the manufacture of composite structures. VARTM is being evaluated for the manufacture of primary aircraft structures, including foam sandwich composite materials. One of the benefits of VARTM is the ability to resin infiltrate large or complex shaped components. However, trial and error process development of these types of composite structures can prove costly and ineffective. Therefore, process modeling of the associated flow details and infiltration times can aide in manufacturing design and optimization. The purpose of this research was to develop a process using VARTM to resin infiltrate stitched and unstitched dry carbon fiber preforms with polymethacrylimide foam cores to produce composite sandwich structures. The infiltration process was then used to experimentally verify a three-dimensional finite element model for VARTM injection of stitched sandwich structures. Using the processes developed for the resin infiltration of stitched foam core preforms, visualization experiments were performed to verify the finite element model. The flow front progression as a function of time and the total infiltration time were recorded and compared with model predictions. Four preform configurations were examined in which foam thickness and stitch row spacing were varied. For the preform with 12.7 mm thick foam core and 12.7 mm stitch row spacing, model prediction and experimental data agreed within 5%. The 12.7 mm thick foam core preform with 6.35 mm row spacing experimental and model predicted data agreed within 8%. However, for the 12.7 mm thick foam core preform with 25.4 mm row spacing, the model overpredicted infiltration times by more 20%. The final case was the 25.4 mm thick foam core preform with 12.7 mm row spacing. In this case, the model overpredicted infiltration times by more than 50%. This indicates that the model did not accurately describe flow through the needle perforations in the foam core and could be addressed by changing the mesh elements connecting the two face sheets.
- Masters Theses