For the manufacture of large-scale structures and components, the aerospace industry has been using pre-impregnated composite materials, tape laying technologies and autoclave curing. The combination of these technologies allows toughened resins to be uniformly dispersed in a well-controlled fibre system, ensuring strength and fatigue resistance at a high material cost. To date, the scientists have investigated alternative manufacturing methods based on liquid resin infusion (LRI) technologies, in which the resin is infused only after all dry textiles are assembled. Despite the many advantages, including lower material costs, LRI of large structures requires time-consuming 'trial and error' testing. The EU-funded 'Simulation based solutions for industrial manufacture of large infusion composite parts' (INFUCOMP) project aimed to solve this issue. To help achieve more rapid manufacturing of high quality parts at a lower cost, the project team has built end-to-end virtual prototyping solutions from preform design to manufacturing. An ambitious set of computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools has been developed that build on existing capabilities of infusion simulation codes. Specifically, INFUCOMP researchers have extended PAM-RTM — an existing simulation software — to provide a simulation chain for LRI composites. With the INFUCOMP tools covering fabric modelling, drape, assembly, infusion, cost and final performance predictions, costly and time-consuming prototype testing will be avoided. The capabilities of the new CAE tools have been validated on representative aircraft components manufactured using RTI technologies employed by four industrial partners. The lower cost promised for the manufacture of high performance, large-scale components should contribute positively to the increased use of LRI technologies. More importantly, although the INFUCOMP project focused on aerospace applications, the new CAE tools are expected to be of great value to other industries, including automotive engineering.
Virtual prototyping, aerospace engineering, composite materials, resins, liquid resin infusion, trial and error, testing, computer aided engineering, simulation codes, PAM-RTM, automotive