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Simulation Based Solutions for Industrial Manufacture of Large Infusion Composite Parts

Tags: Air

State of the Art - Background

These days, advanced composites use either layers of plies impregnated with resin (pre-pregs) to form a laminate, or Liquid Composites Moulding (e.g. RTM) of dry textiles. Prepreg composites give superior mechanical properties due to toughened resins and high fibre content, but suffer from high material costs, limited shapeability, complex, expensive and time consuming manufacturing, as well as limited material shelf life. Infusion technologies can overcome these limitations, but are not fully industrialised and rely on costly prototype testing due to the lack of simulation tools. Current infusion simulation technologies are approximate and really only suited to small scale components based on adaptations of Resin Transfer Moulding simulation, they are not suited to large scale aerospace composites.

The INFUCOMP project will develop the simulation chain from preform design to manufacture (infusion), process/part optimisation, and final part defects/mechanical performance prediction. The project covers all popular Liquid Resin Infusion (LRI) methods currently used in the Aerospace industry. The proposed technologies will allow the economical manufacture of high performance, integrated, large scale composite structures, therefore contributing positively to their increased use. Benefits include lower cost, improved performance, greater payloads and fuel/emissions reductions.


Project aims will be achieved through the 9 Work Packages (WPs):

WP1 Project management, dissemination and exploitation.

WP2 Fabric deformation characterisation: Mechanical fabric testing will determine data for fabric deformation laws to be implemented in to the FE draping software.

WP3 Viscosity and permeability characterisation: Resin viscosity testing on selected resins will enable new hydraulic and air permeability models to be developed and implemented in the LRI software.

WP4 Preform tooling and assembly simulation: Important fabric deformations are imposed during preformance. Techniques to model this process step will be developed.

WP5 Infusion simulation developments: Numerous new developments specific to thick, large scale, aerospace composites structures will be developed and validated.

WP6 Cost analysis and cost optimisation: The various LRI manufacturing routes have different cost benefits: each will be investigated and cost models developed.

WP7 Post-infusion defects prediction: Final part performance including residual stresses, distortions and void content will be studied experimentally and numerically.

WP8 Process optimisation: Optimisation techniques (evolutionary/genetic) and sensitivity studies will be used to optimise the LRI manufacturing process.

WP9 Industrial validation: Four diverse, industrially relevant LRI aircraft sub-structures will be investigated to critically evaluate and validate the new CAE tools.

Description of Work

Work package interaction(s):

1. WPs 2 and 3 perform fabric deformation and resin viscosity/permeability measurements respectively. There is some interaction in these two WPs - deformed fabrics from WP2 will be used for permeability testing in WP3.

2. The mechanical data obtained from WP2 and WP3 is directly used to develop new fabric deformation models at the macro- and meso- scales (WP2) and for new permeability models for deformed fabrics (WP3), both of which are implemented into the new software.

3. WP4, WP6, WP7 and WP8 all develop necessary associated simulation technologies. In each case the developments are undertaken and then used for collaborative and validation studies with the end-users.

4. Final validation of the CAE tools and procedures is undertaken in WP9.

The testing work is largely undertaken in the first half of the project with measurement being immediately used to develop the new/improved numerical models. Most software developments are undertaken in two to three years, so that validation work can be performed as soon as possible. This is considered essential so that important feedback is available for possible improvements to the CAE tools.

The validation studies will focus on draping and preforming in year 2, and then move to infusion work in year 3 and mechanical performance/defects prediction in year 4.

Expected Results

INFUCOMP will build on existing simulation softwares to provide a full solution chain for LRI composites. The simulation tools will allow the CAE design of alternative manufacturing routes and enable cost effective, efficient LRI composite structures to be designed and manufactured. Specific developments include:

1. Improved drape simulation software for accurate knowledge of the deformed fabric architecture;

2. New modelling methods based on further development of the WiseTex software for fabric deformation and permeability prediction;

3. New methods to predict preform assembly and obtain initial infusion conditions;

4. Contributions to test standards include fabric deformation, resin viscosity and permeability testing;

5. Numerous enhancements to state-of-the-art resin infusion simulation are planned giving a simulation accuracy of 90%, allowing large scale 3D structures to be analysed;

6. Cost analyses developments will be integrated to the new development tools;

7. Chaining of the simulation stages and optimisation work will allow process optimisation and positively control final part mechanical performance;

8. For the first time simulation tools will be used throughout the full design process in a range of industrially relevant LRI structures.