Watch a demonstration of a Smart Tool that acts as a mandrel to create a sub-scale composite inlet duct with 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 an inlet duct with a trapped geometry.
To start, we hand apply dry carbon fiber socks onto the Smart Tool. Because the Smart Tool is rigid during layup, the socks can be secured in the proper position. After the dry carbon fiber sock has been pulled onto the Smart Tool, we then place a vacuum bag through and around the Smart Tool, and seal with tape. This will maintain even vacuum during the cure cycle. Before the vacuum-assisted resin transfer mold (VARTM) processing and cure cycle, the laid up Smart Tool is placed into the oven to ensure the carbon fiber socks are completely dry.
Next, we heat up the epoxy resin under pressure and pull the hot resin around the Smart Tool. After the proper amount of resin is infused, we shut off the resin and maintain vacuum. During the initial composite cure at 250°F, the Smart Tool remains rigid and sets the inner mold line geometry of the composite part.
Once the composite part has completed it’s initial cure cycle, the temperature is increased to 350°F for the secondary cure cycle. As the oven temperatures reaches 325°F the Smart Tool becomes fully elastic and is extracted with minimal force from the cured composite part.
To reform, the elastic Smart Tool is placed into a preheated reforming mold, a vacuum bag is pulled through the Smart Tool and sealed to the mold, vacuum is pulled, and it is left to cool. As the temperature decreases the Smart Tool returns to it’s rigid state at the proper geometry, 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 Mandrels or check out our library of case studies and data sheets to learn more about this composite mandrel.
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