Effect of Cure Cycle Heat Transfer Rates on the Physical Properties of an Epoxy Matrix Composite
Although the autoclave technique produces composite parts of high quality, the process is time consuming and has intrinsically high capital and operating costs. QuickstepTM is a novel polymer composite manufacturing technique designed for the out-of-autoclave processing of highquality, low-cost components with a reduction in cure-cycle times. This paper assesses the use of the Quickstep method for the processing of an epoxy-carbon fibre aerospace composite material. The Quickstep process is compared both to a thermal vacuum-bag only process and the manufacturer’s specifications for autoclave cured panels. Higher process ramp rates, achievable by using Quickstep, have been shown to reduce resin viscosity and facilitate void removal. Through manipulation of the Quickstep cure cycle while the resin is at low viscosity, significant effects on the mechanical properties of the product are demonstrated. Using Quickstep curing it has been found that better interlaminar properties than the manufacturers autoclave data could be obtained while the flexural strength was a little lower. The work identifies key parameters associated with the Quickstep process giving an insight into how it can be optimised further in an attempt to produce panel properties that rival those produced by autoclave methods.
J.K. Kim, D.Z. Wo, L.M. Zhou, H.T. Huang, K.T. Lau and M. Wang
L. W. Davies et al., "Effect of Cure Cycle Heat Transfer Rates on the Physical Properties of an Epoxy Matrix Composite", Key Engineering Materials, Vols. 334-335, pp. 545-548, 2007