Professor Daniel Walczyk receives 3-year, $352K NSF grant for R&D in composites manufacturing

Daniel Walczyk, a Professor of mechanical engineering and Associate Director of Manufacturing with the CATS, has been awarded a 3-year, $352K NSF GOALI grant through the Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation to continue research and development on a patent-pending ‘out-of-autoclave’ process for consolidating and curing composite parts. The project is entitled “GOALI: Consolidation and Curing of Advanced Composite Parts Using Elastomer-Coated Tooling.” He will be working with Kintz Plastics, Inc., a heavy-gauge plastics thermoforming company in Howes Cave, NY, and Vistex, LLC, a start-up firm in Troy, NY on commercialization of this technology, which is formerly known as Thermal Press Curing (TPC).

TPC involves clamping a formed thermoset composite laminate or sandwich structure between a temperature-controlled mold and specially designed, matched rubber-coated mold with the required pressure and temperature profiles to properly consolidate and cure the part. When the uncured laminate molds are clamped with a particular force, they achieve the same process conditions as an autoclave, that is uniform temperature and pressure applied to the curing part, by simple pressing and efficient heating. Recent published studies have clearly shown that TPC, as compared to autoclaving and another competitive process called Quickstep, results in orders-of-magnitude reductions in preparation time, fixed and variable costs, and energy consumption while still providing parts of similar quality.

The three main research objectives of this project are to (1) understand the manufacturing science behind the TPC process and create robust simulation capabilities for tooling synthesis and prediction of process behavior, (2) perform fundamental materials engineering research on tooling, rubber masks, and composite systems, and (3) create new process capabilities and knowledge.

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