Typically, high-performance composite materials are layered on a specially formed surface, or tool, and then placed in an autoclave, where a combination of heat and pressure accelerate the hardening of the material. Spirit’s new technology introduces an intelligent, multi-zone heated tool, removing the need for an autoclave. The tool enables complete control of the curing process through real-time monitoring and feedback.
Stevie Brown, lead engineer at Spirit’s Advanced Technology Centre, explained that the autoclave had been a bottleneck in manufacturing lines, and removing it would reduce cycle times for components, cut production costs and decrease energy consumption. Instead of curing components at a standard temperature for hours at a time, they can now tailor the cycle time to match individual part geometries.
Spirit has developed a new technology in collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and Scotland located innovation centre CENSIS. They intend to continue collaboration through 2018.