SBIR Phase II: Autoclave Equivalent Composites Via In-Situ Pressurization

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Advanced Ceramics Manufacturing
7800A South Nogales Highway Array
Tucson, AZ 85756
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will develop materials and processes that enable any composite resin system to be produced Out Of Autoclave (OOA) with excellent inner and outer surfaces. To ensure high quality and reliability, aerospace composites are processed inside autoclaves that combine heat and pressure. The capital and labor costs and manufacturing times associated with autoclave processing are significant but necessary to ensure composite quality. Achieving high-complexity geometries poses additional hurdles. Current methods used in these cases include a small selection of OOA pre-impregnated parts, the use of thermoplastic bladders, or the bonding of autoclaved components. A large opportunity exists for OOA technology to reduce material and labor costs while also enabling one piece, seamless composite structures with extremely complex internal & external geometries, allowing manufacturing of parts which were previously unachievable. The Phase II project will further the development of a self-pressurizing technology that allows OOA processing of any resin system without a loss in quality. The Phase II will expand the operating temperature and pressure window, improve forming processes, and characterize performance on commercially relevant pre-impregnated systems. Phase II results will yield a mature forming process and several tooling grades with verified performance. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is the realization of a manufacturing technology that will enable the composites industry to form more complex geometries and allow greater competition throughout the industry. Society will see benefits through the broader use of fuel-efficient composites in air and land based vehicles and smaller carbon waste streams. The use of advanced fiber reinforced composites in aircraft has become a necessity to achieve higher performance and greater fuel efficiencies. Boeing's 787 and Airbus's A350 are two such aircraft that exemplify the push to increase composite content above 50% by weight. The proposed technology will impact new aircraft as well as the design and manufacture of other vehicles. Technologically, this project will lead to a better understanding of self-pressurizing materials and their potential applications, as well as advance domestic manufacturing capabilities. Finally, undergraduates at the University of Arizona will have an opportunity to work on the project in conjunction with industrial scientists and engineers.