Do You Know the 3 Processes for Creating Composite Parts?

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Creating parts and products from composite materials involves unique processes and skills you will not find in any other manufacturing environment. Whether you are talking aerospace, military, motorsports, or industrial composites, they all involve some pretty advanced technologies supported by traditional manufacturing philosophies.

Just about every composite manufacturing process can be categorized under one of three primary process philosophies: open mold manufacturing, closed mold manufacturing, and cast polymer molding. We will discuss all three in this post. As a side note, we are just about finished with construction and preparing to move into our new facilities. We look forward to leveraging the new facility and its equipment to produce the best composite parts and products for our clients.

1. Open Mold Manufacturing

The most common form of manufacturing in advanced composites is open mold manufacturing. Its main benefits are its versatility and relative ease – at least as far as composites manufacturing is concerned. It is based on the principle of applying multiple layers of reinforcement and resin in a mold that is left open to dry and cure.

In an open mold scenario, the mold itself defines the shape of the finished part. Molds are made from metal, fiberglass, wood, and other materials. Manufacturers combine resins and fiber reinforcements and add them to the mold in multiple layers.

Resins can be anything from polyester to epoxy while fiber reinforcements typically involve things like Kevlar, carbon fiber, and fiberglass. The fibers are saturated with the chosen resin and then layered in the mold. The completed mold is left in the open air to dry and cure. For some applications, heat or chemicals might be introduced to promote better curing.

2. Closed Mold Manufacturing

Closed mold manufacturing is similar to open mold in some ways but vastly different in others. The primary difference between the two is that closed mold applications require two precisely matched and sealed mold parts that, together, define the shape of the finished part. Once again, molds can be made from a variety of materials, as long as those materials are rigid.

The same types of resins and fibers are used in closed mold manufacturing. You are looking at carbon fiber, fiberglass, epoxy, and polyester. When it comes time to dry and cure, however, the fiber and resin layers are confined within a closed and sealed mold. They are not exposed to the open air.

Filling a mold can be accomplished through a variety of means including pressure, vacuum, and injection. Compression molding applies pressure that creates consistent quality for simple composite parts. Meanwhile, vacuum-assisted resin transfer molding draws resin into a closed mold for better performance with complex composite parts.

3. Cast Polymer Molding

When polymer parts are manufactured without fiber reinforcement, cast polymer molding is a preferred manufacturing process. It relies on synthetic resins like acrylic, polyester, and epoxy. Fillers are often used to achieve color variations or introduce specifically desired properties.

One of the main benefits of this particular manufacturing process is the ability to create parts with unusual sizes, shapes, and details. Cast polymer molding is pretty common for manufacturing bathtubs and shower units, countertops, and architectural elements.

What we have described here barely scratches the surface of how composite parts are manufactured. Needless to say that advanced composites manufacturing is different. The key is choosing the right materials and process based on the part or product being manufactured.

Aerodine Composites utilizes the best materials and latest manufacturing methods to guarantee quality, performance, and consistency. We invite you to contact us if you are interested in learning more about our services and manufacturing processes. Contact us today!

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