Composites are becoming more and more common in everyday products; but what are they and how are parts made?
Here's our guide from basics to finishing, and everything in-between.
The basic definition of "composite" is a combination of unique, individual elements. In this case, the combination is of a fiber and a matrix, that when combined correctly, create an extremely lightweight and strong component. However, it's not as simple as glueing strips of cloth together.
The most common method of manufacturing is a manual method called hand layup. Here, the operator skillfully places sheets of precut fabric into the mold, mixes epoxy resin, wets out the fiber, and bags the part. This has to be done entirely without shifting the fiber due to the directional strength discussed previously.
For larger or more complex shapes, it will be nearly impossible to rely solely on vacuum pressure to create an acceptable final part. This is where positive pressure, as well as negative pressure, needs to be introduced by what could be considered as "heavy machinery". This includes presses and high pressure machinery.
With the advancement of robotic technology, and the increase in more and more components incorporating composites, taking automation to the next step is inevitable. Here we discuss the different levels of automation and their associated parameters and requirements.
Taking full advantage of the mechanical properties of the composite material is a skill that is most oftentimes learned on the job. Get acquainted with the different reinforcements and matrices available, and how they interact with each other, to hit the ground running.
For higher rates of manufacturing, some additional equipment needs to be introduced. Here we provide information on some of the more equipment intensive processes, such as LRTM and VARTM, among others.
Some process and parts are too big and awkward for humans to handle without a risk of injury. Here we explore the benefits of pick and place robots aiding in the manufacturing process.