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Monitoring, Optimisation and Control of Liquid Composite Moulding Processes


The main limitation of the current Liquid Composite Moulding (LCM) manufacturing technologies in the fabrication of high quality, affordable and highly integrated aerospace structures lies in their inability to combine the available information (accurate simulations, measurements, experience and knowledge) dealing with the integrated process (resin flow and cure) in a global control system. The future developments require the refinement and integration of existing control approaches.

Project objectives

The following principal and measurable project objectives are envisaged:

1. Development of a robust and tool-mounted integrated dielectric sensor cluster to follow the resin local flow (speed, direction) and cure progress accurately and reproducibly.

2. Development of an integrated process monitoring system with knowledge-based adaptable monitoring strategy and smart actuators, capable of reducing scrap components by 50%.

3. Development of intelligent and optimal on-line flow control validated on the mould filling of high temperature curing composite materials.

4. Integration of process (flow and cure) simulation tools to process monitoring systems and injection control equipment capable of reducing LCM product development costs by 40%.

5. Guidance of a composites production process through an optimal path for attainment of prescribed component properties, capable of reducing the overall process cycle by 50%.

Description of the work

The objectives will be achieved by integrating sensing principles and fabrication practices for compiling a prototype control system linked with industrial Resin Transfer Moulding injection control equipment. The project is organised into nine technical Work Packages:

Work Package 1: Development and testing of flow sensors for resin direction and speed measurement.

Work Package 2: Development and testing of integrated (flow and cure) sensors linked to material models for real-time evaluation of process parameters.

Work Package 3: Development of flow control system with identification parameters and process optimisation tools.

Work Package 4: Development of an integrated control system, utilising integrated sensors and smart monitoring strategies.

Work Package 5: Realisation of process control through the development and positioning of process actuators.

Work Package 6: Development of a global integrated process control system (IPC) for the global consideration of the component size.

Work Package 7: Implementating the developing technology step-by-step at lab-scale.

Work Package 8: Pilot-scale implementations at industrial users’ manufacturing sites.

Work Package 9: Certification and exploitation issues.

Expected results

The project aims to develop a revolutionary control system applicable to the production of composite materials through a wide range of LCM methods. The COMPROME system utilises the dielectric signal for sensing resin flow and cure processes and consists of: (i) an integrated, durable and tool-mounted dielectric sensor; (ii) a modular monitoring system with embedded knowledge; (iii) a process control strategy; (iv) a global integrated process control (IPC) system; (v) the manufacturing aerospace components with cost-effectiveness and improved quality.