Tag Archives: VAP

-Resin Infusion techniques in the aerospace industry

TwitterLinkedIn

Many methods have been developed to perform the resin infusion in the aerospace industry, once the dry preforms are created manually or automatically. These processes are identified by different names and acronyms, which can lead to some confusion. Here is a description of some of the more widely known infusion methods.

SCRIMP (Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process) is one of the earliest patented infusion methods. It is used for many marine and Wind blade applications, but was also licensed by some aerospace firms. It relies upon the use of a flow or “distribution media” with high permeability between the layup and vacuum bag to rapidly and evenly distribute resin laterally across the part.

SCRIMP Schematic

SCRIMP Schematic (link)

VARTM (Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding) is the name of the process used by Lockheed Martin that is similar to SCRIMP, but does not use a flow media. The entire fuselage of the AGM 159 JASSM missile is made using VARTM.

JASSM made with VARTM

JASSM made with VARTM (link)

CAPRI (Controlled Atmospheric Pressure Resin Infusion) was patented by Boeing and is said to reduce thickness variation and result in fiber volumes and mechanical properties equivalent to prepreg/autoclave materials. First it uses vacuum debulking cycles on the dry preform to reduce compressed thickness prior to infusion. During infusion, the resin supply is held at partial vacuum, which assists in degassing the bulk resin but also reduces the pressure differential driving resin into the preform.

CAPRI Schematic

CAPRI Schematic (link)

VAP (Vacuum Assisted Process) was patented by EADS and used in parts like the A380 Aft Pressure Bulkhead and the massive A400 Cargo Door. VAP features a gas permeable membrane placed over the infused layup, which helps to evacuate trapped air and volatiles in the infused layup prior to cure. By letting gases through the membrane (but not the resin) VAP is said to achieve lower voids and higher, more controlled fiber volume for better laminate quality.

VAP membrane

VAP membrane (link)

RTI (Resin Transfer Infusion) is a Bombardier patented process used to produce the wing skins of its CSeries aircraft. Infusion of resin into the preform is performed with vacuum pressure only. However, the mold is located in an unpressurized  autoclave during the infusion step. After the preform is fully infused, the autoclave is pressurized and heated to perform cure. This makes it easier to achieve high laminate quality because positive cure pressure (>14 psi) helps prevent void formation from entrapped air and volatiles. It has the drawback that a suitable size autoclave is still requited. All other methods cited above are true Out of Autoclave processes.

C-Series wing made with RTI

C-Series wing made with RTI (link)

There are also other acronyms for similar processes, which can create a kind of “alphabet soup” confusion about infusion.

The important thing to remember is that many different users have had success making a wide range of parts (some very large and critical) using infusion processes.

-Advanced dry composite materials offer new opportunities in the aerospace industry

TwitterLinkedIn

The number of flights expected for the next 2 decades shows a an annual growth rate of 4.7%, but needs to satisfy very tight constrains on fuel consumption (with fuel consumption being about 30% of the operating cost). It is required to strongly reduce fuel consumption of the future aircrafts manufactured.


ScreenHunter_1350Growth perspective for annual flights from AIRBUS market forecast

One of the approaches required to do so is the introduction of advanced materials to reduce their weight, and composite materials in particular. Major manufacturers have increased the content of composite materials from 5% (A300) to 52% (A350XWB) for AIRBUS or to 46% for the CSeries (Bombardier), including wings, fuselage, and other structural parts etc.

Traditionally, structural components in aerospace have used carbon fiber pre-impregnated with epoxy resins (pre-pregs) that require to be cured in an Autoclave. Although the properties of the pre-pregs are outstanding, the cost associated to the maintenance, shelf life and autoclave processing of these pre-pregs represents a high percentage of the total cost of the part.

In order to reduce these costs, a strong effort has been performed to develop dry composite materials with suitable material properties, and reduced manufacturing costs due to higher deposition rates, no costs of refrigeration, and longer shelf life.  Due to this effort, the use of dry composite materials emerges as a new material feasible for the manufacture of structural components.

The CSeries Aircrafts, from Bombardier Aerospace represents a breakthrough in the use of composite materials, since some of their structural components, such us the wings are being manufactured using dry composite materials. Bombardier expects to reduce 20% the fuel consumption, and have 25% less maintenance costs. The CSeries aircraft is expected to make the first flight shortly. In particular, the manufacturing process is based on pick and place of dry composite material cut on a 2D table and positioned in the mould.

Bombardier

Bombardier is not the only one aircraft manufacturer that uses dry composites in the design of the new aircraft to reduce costs and increase productivities: A400M from AIRBUS cargo door (also a structural component) is also manufactured using dry composite materials. Furthermore, their manufacturing method uses alternatives to autoclave, by means of the VAP (vacuum-assisted process) demonstrating that dry composite materials can achieve mechanical properties required to be used in structural components. The manufacture of these components also takes benefit of the combined infusion of the different parts (skin and stringers), avoiding about 3000 metallic rivets.

0507HPC_IM_A400M_Step_3The investigation and development on dry composites, offers a critical opportunity to push forward the presence of composite materials in the aeronautic field by reducing costs, and maintaining the mechanical properties of pre-preg materials.

Airbus and Bombardier are setting up the first steps regarding the use of dry composites in the aeronautic sector. This sets the path to the industrial development of processing technologies of the fabrication of the materials and the components, and moving from manual manufacturing for short series to high production for larger series, as has happened with glass fiber or pre-preg carbon fiber materials.

There are still strong challenges remaining to take full advantage of this disruptive material that require a strong synergy between all the agents responsible of the introduction, design and development of components manufactured from dry composite materials: companies, Research Centers, academics and experts.