Composite experts at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing have invested £150,000 in an FT Dornier Rapier Loom in order to uncover composite technology’s “dark arts”.
Designed to weave composites without the risk of highly electrical conductive carbon fibres, the team will be able to design and weave their own materials by adopting this traditional Yorkshire skill.
Taking the composites team to a new era, the capability will enable them to push the boundaries of processes such as Resin Transfer Moulding where components are made by injecting resin into a mould where a dry fibre has been laid down.
“Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) is a bit of a ‘dark art’,” says the AMRC Composite Centre’s Dr Jody Turner. “RTM is supposed to be a very rapid and highly production orientated process, but getting it right can involve trial and error. Sometimes the resin doesn’t penetrate all of the material and parts of the component are left completely dry, which makes it useless. We plan to carry out research that will help us to understand more about what happens during RTM injection and why results can be so erratic.”
Composite researchers have been studying the flow of resin through carbon fibre fabrics for some time but this study is set to expand on that by experimenting with different tensions for warp and the weft threads.
Should the research prove successful, the outcome could produce weave materials that can be opened up to form a series of boxes or honeycomb structures that would add strength to completed composite components.