Cost modelling and manufacture of 3D fibre reinforced composites

The drive within the aerospace industry to reduce the operation costs of aircraft, has forced manufacturers to consider the use of new materials and manufacturing strategies that may provide these savings. Using the standard aerospace prepreg-autoclave composite manufacturing system as a baseline, the research project will evaluate whether robotically stitched composites, a type of 3D fibre reinforced composite, can provide the cost and weight savings demanded.

The aim of this project is to increase the understanding of how tufting affects the cost and weight of composites with the development of a model for the estimation of tufted vs. prepreg composite cost and weight, across a range of applications. The model will be validated using stitched L and flat panel geometries produced at QinetiQ.

The creation of a cost model for tuft reinforced composites that estimates component parameters and the manufacturing costs required to deliver stated performance characteristics, will facilitate the development of a cost/performance design criterion for tufted composites that will aid their design process.

The effect of the material’s 3D architecture on its infusion cost will be analysed using the micro-CT scanning facilities at the University of Plymouth. The material’s inner architecture will be analysed to provide data which will in turn facilitate the use of flow modelling software to help determine the relationship between the fibre architecture and the infusion times of tufted reinforcements. This relationship will allow novel estimates of the material’ infusion time and therefore cost.

For more information contact Dr Stephen Grove.

Robot stitching machine at qinetiQ and Skyscan 1174 x-ray CT at Plymouth University

Plan view of the stitched reinforcement

X-ray tomograph of stitched preform