Automakers are very interested in carbon fiber composite processing technologies that boast significantly lower processing costs . One such process promising such potential is Resin Spray Transmission (RST) from Quickstep Technologies (North Coogee, Australia).
|The RST process is a series process rather than the batch process for conventional autoclaved composites.|
RST was funded through the AusIndustry Climate Ready Grant Scheme of the Australian government. The three-year, A$5.2 million ($5.4 million) project will be completed in May 2012 with the purpose of proving the RST technology and developing a prototype production system utilizing the RST and Quickstep technology for production of an automotive concept panel.
The low-pressure, low-cost process can use dry fiber and bulk resin as opposed to the pre-pregs employed in conventional autoclaved composites. Freezers are also not required for raw material storage. Resins employed in RST are stored at room temperature and melt at 40-50°C. A bladder filled with polyethylene glycol (PEG) is employed to dissipate the high exotherm of the rapid-curing resins.
In the RST process, resin is sprayed onto a dry fabric preform and infuses through the thickness direction. One thing the process developers are now looking at is the infusion of nanoparticles in order to modify properties according to Philippe Odouard of CEO of Quickstep.
Odouard believes RST technology should be applicable to production runs of 20,000-30,000 vehicles per year. The serial production process can manufacture six completed parts every hour. "One thing we can also do is pre-spray primer onto the mold surface," says Odouard. The process is also capable of delivering Class-A finishes directly off the tool.
Quickstep is also close to announcing a project with the German government and a European OEM to develop technology to weave carbon fiber mats to shape for use in the process. "This will cut carbon fiber wastage by 30%," says Odouard.
Quickstep will also open a factory in Bankstown, NSW, Australia, by the end of this year to get closer to Australia's aerospace manufacturing base.- firstname.lastname@example.org