OJCM  Vol.10 No.3 , July 2020
Exploring the Potential to Uniquely Manufacture Curved VARTM Epoxy Composites Using Cost-Effective FDM Molds
Abstract: The Resin Infusion or the VARTM (Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Molding) process has significant potential to be used to manufacture curved composites. Another way to produce curved or complex geometry is to use 3D printers. 3D or FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) printers are now being used to produce relatively cheaper curved parts using thermoplastics such as PLA. However, the strength and mechanical performance of these parts is limited and can be enhanced if the polymer is reinforced with a type of fiber for instance. Research is being carried out to produce fiber rein-forced thermoplastic composites but that process is expected to be more expensive than the alternative methods such as injection or compression molding. Furthermore, to understand the manufacture of a hybrid composite using thermoplastics, fibers and epoxy resin, research and investigation need to be carried out. In this research, there are single-sided, double-sided, reusable, disposable and consumable molds. Most of the molds were created either using an FDM printer or manually. These molds were then used to manufacture flat and curved composite structures via the resin injection process, i.e. VARTM with epoxy resin system and glass/carbon/flax fiber reinforcement. By replacing the costly metallic molds by significantly cheaper molds, the cost of production was expected to further reduce. Furthermore, using double-sided PLA molds was not expected to be a threat to the overall cost of the composite part in question compared to double-sided matched molds used in compression molding. Shear strength, tensile strength and charpy impact strength of most of the manufactured composite parts were also investigated. The strengths were compared based on the method of mold usage. The results showed that this method is effective for a cheaper production of curved epoxy resin composites. However, the strength of the part will decrease as the curved profile gets more complicated unless the basic resin infusion process is altered.
Cite this paper: Kazmi, S. , Schuster, J. and Lutz, J. (2020) Exploring the Potential to Uniquely Manufacture Curved VARTM Epoxy Composites Using Cost-Effective FDM Molds. Open Journal of Composite Materials, 10, 45-65. doi: 10.4236/ojcm.2020.103004.

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