What do Paris, Composites Curing and Baking Have in Common?

composites curing JECA week from today we’re heading to Paris. Not to see the incredible sights or enjoy some of the museums but to attend JEC World. It’s one of, if not the, biggest composites event. ANSYS will be there to talk with customers and attendees about the simulation of composite and composites curing. There will be whole team of us there so please do drop by ANSYS booth S72 Hall 6 and say hello.

Composite technology has moved forward a great deal since it started making regular appearances in motorsports and aerospace. I’m sure there will be lots of discussions on the challenges people are facing next week.

Something that I’ve started to hear more about is around the actual curing process. One of my colleagues compared it to making a cake. I thought it was a bit odd at first but I think they’re right. The actual oven time , or ‘bake’, changes everything. All the curing takes place in the oven and the chemical changes that turn the collection of loose monomers to a strong closely packed fully cured thermoset.

composites curing thermoset resin

This change can be compared to the change of raw cake ingredients to a cooked cake. You can’t easily predict what exactly is going to happen by just looking at it. How long it will take to cook and the final shape can vary drastically with only a minor change to the cake tin or oven temperature. The same is true for composites curing. The baking is time and temperature dependent. Too little heat or not enough time and you won’t have a fully cured part. The change in shape as the part cures (bakes, to continue our kitchen analogy) is also difficult to predict. The increased density of the part as the long chains form means that residual stress and shrinkage are very real possibilities.

The challenge of engineering composites is tough enough without considering the curing process — but the rewards are great. Incredible designs that save airliners fuel, increase flight range, make faster cars and facilitate ever bigger wind turbines (last I read, close to 80m, 262 ft blades!!) are driving performance up and energy costs down.

Curing Composites aircraft wing

I’m amazed by what those who use the software to develop these models can achieve. The engineering imaginations and talent are astounding. I know that companies are saving vast amounts of money by doing more simulation up front on their designs and that those who started to include the simulation of composites curing process are now speeding up tool development and reducing remanufacturing costs.

I’m excited to see what everyone in the composites world is up to next week and hearing about the successes. If you’re in Paris and are attending JEC, again please do stop by stand 72 in hall 6 and say hello.