Design and manufacturing of composite structures using the resin transfer molding technique




Keulen, Casey James

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Composite materials have the potential to revolutionize life in the 21st century. They are contributing significantly to developments in aerospace, hydrogen fuel cells, electronics and space exploration today. While a number of composite material processing methods exist, resin transfer molding (RTM) has the potential of becoming the dominant low-cost process for the fabrication of large, high-performance products. RTM has many advantages over alternative processes, including the capability of producing complex 3D shapes with a good surface finish, the incorporation of cores and inserts, a tight control over fiber placement and resin volume fraction and the possibility of embedding sensors into manufactured components for structural health monitoring. Part of the reason RTM has not received widespread use is due to its drawbacks such as its relatively trial and error nature, race tracking, washout, high cycle time and void formation. The basic operation of the process involves loading a fiber reinforcement preform into a mold cavity, closing the mold, injecting resin into the mold and allowing the resin to cure. To study the resin transfer molding process and issues affecting it, a laboratory containing an experimental RTM apparatus has been established. The apparatus has a glass window to observe the mold filling process and can incorporate various mold shapes such as a quasi-2D panel, a 3-D rectangular section and a 3-D semicircular section. To characterize the flow through the molds a commercial CFD software has been used. This thesis describes the establishment of this laboratory and preliminary studies that have been conducted.



Composite Materials, Resin Transfer Molding, RTM