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SBIR Phase I: Sustainable Advanced Composites Manufacturing: Removing Barriers to Automation
Phone: (610) 737-8571
Phone: (610) 737-8571
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will investigate the feasibility of using Specialized Elastomeric Tooling (SET) as the central technology for a rapid, automated, low-cost advanced composites manufacturing system by developing innovative equipment concepts. An industry need exists, especially in the automotive sector, for an automated solution that can quickly and affordably produce carbon fiber parts in large numbers. The proposal identifies the key barriers to rapid and automated production of advanced composites including (1) moving formed uncured composite workpieces to curing stations without loss of shape, (2) rapid curing using SET by understanding polymer degradation and heat transfer characteristics, and (3) rapidly ejecting cured parts from molds and removing resin residue, all without causing material degradation or defects. Proposed innovative methods for addressing these technical problems include but are not limited to: ultrasonics for cleaning and part ejection, liquid nitrogen jets and conforming vacuum fixturing for quickly cooling and transporting workpieces, respectively, and use of thermogravimetric analysis, differential scanning calorimetry, and scanning electron microscopy for understanding the heat transfer characteristics of resins during Specialized Elastomeric Tooling curing. The anticipated result will be refined criteria that allow for execution of innovative equipment concepts for automated composites manufacturing. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is equipment design concepts and best practices that reduce the cost of advanced composite products and which reduce cycle times for high volume composite manufacturing as relevant to, for example, the automotive market. Reducing the cost of composites drastically increases the composites market opportunity and will have broad impacts on many sustainability goals such as emission reduction of automobiles and lower cost renewable energy technologies. Furthermore, the proposed thermal analysis of the composites during processing will lead to a better understanding of the effects of heat transfer during resin curing. In general, broader adoption of composites will directly drive domestic manufacturing job creation as composites displace foreign produced goods.
* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *