Additive Manufacturing Technique to Manufacture Self-Heated Molds for Composite Curing

Thermally stable tooling capable of producing heat

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed an additive manufacturing technique to manufacture tooling (molds) for composite manufacturing, where the heat for curing of composites is produced by the mold itself.

 

The novel technique takes advantage of the simultaneous printing and curing of certain thermoset resin systems (e.g., epoxies, polyurethanes, cyclic olefins, etc.) in addition to highly customizable direct write vicious extrusion methods to manufacture novel self-heating thermoset composite tooling with high glass transition temperature (Tg). This new tooling design offers rapid and flexible design and manufacturing of high-performance tooling, eliminates the need for expensive resources (i.e., ovens and autoclaves), and can make composite manufacturing more accessible, energy-efficient, and cost-effective.

 

Background

Fiber-reinforced polymer composites (FRPCs) are integral to aerospace, automotive, marine, biomedical, sports, construction, and energy industries owing to their excellent mechanical properties and low density. Conventional manufacture of FRPC components requires the matrix thermoset resin to be polymerized (cured) at elevated temperatures for several hours using large autoclaves or ovens that scale in size with the component.

The traditional manufacturing approach is therefore energy-inefficient and involves significant capital investment (i.e., access to large autoclaves and ovens). Manufacture of FRPC structures with non-planar geometries is particularly challenging because detailed mold and process design are often required for every new design, leading to long lead times and high manufacturing cost.

Recently, additive manufacturing techniques, which offer flexible and customizable design of 3D objects, have been used to make tooling for composite manufacturing. However, the materials used in tooling development typically have low thermal stability, making them unsuitable for high temperature curing of composites.

Benefits

  • Offers flexible and customizable design of 3D objects
  • Utilizes high-performance thermoset polymers for thermally stable tooling that can produce heat
  • Eliminates the need for expensive ovens and autoclaves.

Applications

  • Fabrication of self-heating tooling
  • Development of additively manufactured polymer nanocomposite parts that can produce heat
  • Technology can be utilized to impart electrical, electrothermal, and electromagnetic shielding functionalities to polymers for use in various applications, including de-icing, wearable heaters, self-healing, shape memory polymers, and sensors
Last Updated: October 2021
Opportunity

Licensed

IP Status

US Patent Pending

Inventors
Reference Number
2021-069
Licensing Manager

Jessy McGowan
Jessy.McGowan@colostate.edu
970-491-7100