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Integrated design and novel tooling and process optimisation of microwave processing of composites

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SIMUTOOL (Integrated design and novel tooling and process optimisation of microwave processing of composites)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-07-31

The main concept of SIMUTOOL is the full modelling and simulation of the MW heating process using a combination of established modelling software packages (for the physicochemical phenomena) and CAD/CAE software packages which take into account the MW oven, novel tool, interactions of MWs with all the materials inside the oven, modelling of the feedback loop control, and optimisation of the process. The final aim was to offer a modelling and simulation toolset of the MW heating process to the composites industry that does not exist today. Such a toolset will provide a comprehensive insight into the physical and chemical phenomena that occur during the process. It will enable industries to take full advantage of the MW heating process.
The project objectives are summarised below:
• Build a process simulator for the interaction of the tool and composite material with MW energy (coupled electromagnetic/heat transfer modelling).
• Understand the process control loop in the MW oven (temperature control through MW power output).
• Design and build a MW transparent ceramic matrix composite tool with a durable MW absorbing layer.
• Monitor the manufacturing process through dielectric sensors.
• Integrate simulation/production data management.
• Production of composite parts using 30% less energy compared to conventional processes.
• Integrate the MW heating process with automated fibre placement technology.
During the 47 months of the reporting period from 1 September 2015 to 31 July 2019 (including the 5 months extension), work has been carried out according to the plan. Details of the work and the results are as follows.

Work Package (WP) 1: Manufacturing process simulator
The electromagnetic field of the HEPHAISTOS CA1 MW oven was simulated. The hexagonal oven cavity, alongside the 12 waveguides, was included. Heat flux sensors were also modelled in order for the process simulator to be able to predict the response of these sensors during processing.
The models developed were translated into the first version of the process simulator. The design of the simulator user interface was based on input requirements from the end users, who provided guidelines on how best to simulate the ceramic matrix composite tool in order for the simulator to be used as a design application for the tool (for example, isolate the MW absorbing layer so that the impact of different layer thicknesses can be simulated).

Work Package 2: Materials selection and characterisation
As dielectric measurements was developed, which is able to a) make the measurements at MW frequency (2.45GHz) and at elevated temperature, b) accommodate both liquid and solid MUTs, and c)can make measurements on anisotropic materials such as composites with minimum sample preparation.

Work Package 3: Knowledge transfer from simulation to production
Digital manufacturing organisations (SIMUTOOL being an example) thrive on data and digital information. Simulations produce data and take input CAD models and parameters; modern control systems utilise sensor data and control models, and finally, since everything uses or creates information and data, there is a role required to efficiently manage all this data and to intelligently index and link all this data. An ICT system fulfilling such a role can be termed as a Data-intensive Knowledge Management system (DiKM), which has been developed within SIMUTOOL

Work Package 4: Manufacturing process control
The development and formulation of system identification tools for (a) capturing the MW heating process dynamics and (b) developing a virtual sensor for the (typically unavailable during the manufacturing process) composite part temperature, were carried out. The developed tools based on data obtained from the SIMUTOOL simulator was validated and assessed. The selection of tools required for formulation of the SIMUTOOL temperature control algorithm was carried out and integrated into process simulator.

Work Package 5: Manufacturing process design
Materials selection for the tool manufacturing has been carried out, which was then used to manufacture a tool where the bulk material is moderately transparent to MW whereas the tool surface was finished with a MW absorbing material to create a uniform heat distribution within the tool.

Work Package 6: Implementation and Demonstration
The tools/moulds developed in WP5 was utilised to manufacture complex geometries in the MW oven for both aerospace and automotive applications. Successful components were manufactured using MW heating. The power data and the measured temperature data was provided to the simulation team to validate the SIMUTOOL process simulator developed in WP4. The simulation is in good agreement with the experimental data for both aerospace and automotive applications.
Techno-economic analysis has been carried out on the MW tool and MW heating.

Work Package 7: Validation and packaging of toolset
The developed Process simulator, process controller and the knowledge management system has been integrated and packaged for the use of the project partners. The aim is to formulate a new project (SIMUTOOL-phase2), were the simulation platform will be utilised to optimise the microwave oven design, the MW tool/mould material selection and design and finally to optimise the MW heating process for aerospace and automotive industries.
Work Package 8: Exploitation and dissemination
The project consortium started to disseminate and promote the project at trade fairs, exhibitions, conferences, etc., in early 2016. A number of dissemination and exploitation activities have taken place. The project has been presented at twelve conferences and seven trade shows. Five conference papers and three journal papers have been published. More dissemination activities have been planned. One large workshop was held to disseminate the technology for potential users.
The final results are:
1. Process simulator for the interaction of the tool and composite material with the MW energy (coupled electromagnetic/heat transfer modelling).
2. Process control loop in MW oven (temperature control through MW power output).
3. The process for designing and building a ceramic matrix composite tool with a durable MW absorbing layer so that: the bulk of the tool is transparent to MWs and heating is directed to the composite part and not to the whole tool.
4. Process monitoring strategy using virtual sensing for the manufacturing process using MW heating.
5. Integrated simulation/production data management system.
6. Integrated the MW heating process with automated fibre placement technology: for automotive short fibre placement and preforming and for aerospace filament finding and infusion.
7. Dielectric properties measuring system, which make measurements at MW frequency (2.45GHz) and elevated temperatures up to 400⁰C of both solid and liquid samples.
SIMUTOOL Dielectric Measuring System
SIMUTOOL Dielectric Measuring System-JEC2017 banner