Technologies for the Rapid Curing of Composite Parts

Period of Performance: 01/23/2009 - 10/23/2009

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Firebird Advanced Materials, Inc.
6304-C Westgate Road
Raleigh, NC 27617
Principal Investigator

Abstract

Certain polymer resins used in the manufacturing of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) aerospace components have relatively long autoclave cure cycles on the order of 6 hours or more. These long cure cycles cause bottlenecks and inefficiencies when producing composite parts with these thermoset resins. This project will investigate and develop a new manufacturing process for rapidly curing composite test panels and parts with these resins. In Phase 1, the process will be investigated and compared with autoclave processing for its potential process time savings, reduced energy usage, improved part quality, and overall cost savings. In addition, new process equipment designs will be proposed for pilot-scale development in Phase 2. BENEFIT: There is a great need for a more rapid CFRP composite manufacturing technology within the aerospace industry, which has been experiencing phenomenal growth in the past few years due to the lightweighting benefits of carbon fiber reinforced composite structural components. The growth of this industry is creating production bottlenecks, especially in autoclave usage and capacity. The rapid curing technology proposed in this research effort has the potential to reduce curing times and energy costs, improve part quality, increase utilization of production tools, and improve overall production capacity. This innovation would benefit both civilian and military composites manufacturing for a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, and marine composite products.z