Watch a demonstration of a Smart Tool used to create a co-cured reinforced skin panel. Because Smart Tools are rigid at layup, but elastic for extraction, material can be laid up directly onto the Smart Tool, and can be demolded from trapped geometry parts.
Smart Tooling provides formable, reusable composite tooling solutions for manufacturing composite parts with complex geometries for the aerospace & defense industry. Today we’ll be preparing a co-cured reinforced skin panel.
To start, we hand apply carbon fiber pre-preg to the lower half of the female cavity of the cure mold. Next, we layup onto the Smart Tool. Because the Smart Tool is rigid during layup, the pre-preg can be properly debulked for ideal lamination. Once layup is completed the Smart Tool is placed into the female mold cavity. Pre-preg noodles are formed and placed on either side of the Smart Tool to create a flat surface for the final carbon fiber pre-preg to be laid ontop.
Next, carbon fiber is hand applied on the base plate to create the lower skin of the reinforced skin panel. We then place the base plate on the mold & flip the assembly. After the carbon fiber pre-preg has been laid up, we then place a vacuum bag through the smart tool and around the entire mold. This will maintain even vacuum during the cure cycle. Once properly sealed, the cure mold, and the reforming mold are placed inside the oven.
During cure, our Smart Tools that act as a bladder become elastic and translate pressure onto the inner composite part surface to press it against the inside of the mold that determines the outside surface geometry, dissipating air and excess resin to improve part quality.
Once the composite part has cured and the temperature is lowered but is still above the activation temperature of the Smart Tool, pressure is removed, the mold is opened, and the elastic Smart Tool can be extracted with low force from the trapped geometry composite part The elastic Smart Tool is now placed into the pre-heated reforming mold, a vacuum bag is pulled through the Smart Tool and sealed to the mold, vacuum is pulled, and it is cooled. As the temperature decreases, the smart tool returns to its rigid state in the proper geometry, and once removed from the mold it is ready to begin the next cycle.
Smart Tooling shape memory polymers are designed to be aerospace-grade rigid epoxies at room temperature, and highly flexible elastomers when heated, eliminating the need for expensive, laborious, tedious, dirty, and challenging solutions such as melt out foam, metal breakdown tools, rubber bladders, or washout tooling. Smart Tools improve quality, reduce labor hours, decrease consumables, and increase throughput. Essentially, Smart Tools enable the manufacturing of composite parts better, cheaper, and faster.
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