Currently, composite moulds are mainly used in open-mould manufacturing processes and in Light RTM (a low-pressure variation of RTM). The proposed project aims to extend the applicability of composite moulds into the more demanding regime of RTM production, as well as to extend the application of the open mould and light RTM techniques in the field of advanced resin systems, where elevated temperature is required. Most important Innovations are: i. embedded heating elements, based on the carbon reinforcement of the mould, close to the mould-part interface demanding less energy. ii. Incorporation of flow, temperature and cure sensors that will enable full automatic control of the process. iii. Layout of a cooling system consisting of a conformal (following the contour of the part) tubing network. iv. Use of piezoceramic film actuators which will induce micro-vibrations and thus assist resin flow inside the cavity. Such actuators on the edges, can be used for demoulding thus reducing tool complexity and demoulding time. Integration of these functionalities into a single “smart” mould is anticipated to impart a significant advancement of the composite and plastics manufacturing industry. It is obvious that by lowering the cost of the moulds the application of high end composites into the sectors of aerospace and automotive industry widens, serving weight reduction and the greening of the transport sector while extending the use of composites in other industrial sectors such as leisure and sport, the energy sector etc. Managing to develop composite moulds for the demanding RTM field, would automatically make them available for other manufacturing processes for engineering plastics and composites (RIM, Transfer moulding, Resin Infusion). While the current project will occupy itself in the RTM, the Resin Infusion and the pultrusion process, the technologies developed will be applicable in other small and medium temperature and medium pressure manufacturing methods.
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