Watch a demonstration of a Smart Tool that acts as a bladder create a tube-shaped composite part, with an interior fastener build-up and trapped geometry. 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 tubular structure with a fastener build up which can represent any composite part with trapped geometry.
To start, we hand apply carbon fiber pre-preg to the Smart Tool using a pre-preg kit. This ensures that the Smart Tool is properly laid up and the process is repeatable. Because the Smart Tool is rigid during the pre-preg can be properly debulked for ideal lamination.
After the carbon fiber pre-preg has been laid up on the Smart Tool, we then place a vacuum bag through the Smart Tool and seal with tape to the ends of the mold. This will maintain even pressure during the cure cycle. Once properly sealed, the cure mold and the reforming mold are placed inside the oven. As the temperature is elevated to cure the composite part, our Smart Tool that acts as a bladder becomes 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 is cured and the temperature is lowered but 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 composite part is now removed from the oven to cool while the Smart Tool is reformed for the next cycle. The elastic Smart Tool is placed into the pre-heated reforming mold, 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.
Learn more about Smart Tools that act as Bladders or check out our library of case studies and data sheets.
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