Verification of a two-dimensional infiltration model for the resin transfer molding process

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Virginia Tech

A two-dimensional finite element model for the infiltration of a dry textile preform by an injected resin has been verified. The model, which is based on the finite element/control volume technique, determines the total infiltration time and the pressure increase at the mold inlet associated with the RTM process. Important input data for the model are the compaction and permeability behavior of the preform along with the kinetic and rheological behavior of the resin.

The compaction behavior for several textile preforms was determined by experimental methods. A power law regression model was used to relate fiber volume fraction to the applied compaction pressure. Results showed a large increase in fiber volume fraction with the initial application of pressure. However, as the maximum fiber volume fraction was approached, the amount of compaction pressure required to decrease the porosity of the preform rapidly increased.

Similarly, a power law regression model was used to relate permeability to the fiber volume fraction of the preform. Two methods were used to measure the permeability of the textile preform. The first, known as the steady state method, measures the permeability of a saturated preform under constant flow rate conditions. The second, denoted the advancing front method, determines the permeability of a dry preform to an infiltrating fluid. Water, corn oil, and an epoxy resin, Epon 815, were used to determine the effect of fluid type and viscosity on the steady state permeability behavior of the preform. Permeability values measured with the different fluids showed that fluid viscosity had no influence on the permeability behavior of 162 E-glass and TTI IM7/8HS preforms.

Permeabilities measured from steady state and advancing front experiments for the warp direction of 162 E-glass fabric were similar. This behavior was noticed for tests conducted with corn oil and Epon 815. Comparable behavior was observed for the warp direction of the TTl 1M7/8HS preform and corn oil.

Fluid/fiber interaction was measured through the use of the single fiber pull-out test. The surface tension of both the corn oil and Epon 815 was determined. The contact angle between these two fluids and glass and carbon fibers was also measured. These tests indicated that the glass fiber had a lower contact angle than the carbon fiber and therefore is wet out better than the carbon fiber by both fluids. This result is attributed to the sizing commonly used on the carbon fibers.

Mold filling and flow visualization experiments were performed to verify the analytical computer model. Frequency dependent electromagnetic sensors were used to monitor the resin flow front as a function of time. For the flow visualization tests, a video camera and high resolution tape recorder were used to record the experimental flow fronts. Comparisons between experimental and model predicted flow fronts agreed well for all tests. For the mold filling tests conducted at constant flow rate injection, the model was able to accurately predict the pressure increase at the mold inlet during the infiltration process. A kinetics model developed to predict the degree of cure as a function of time for the injected resin accurately calculated the increase in the degree of cure during the subsequent cure cycle.