Out-of-Oven Curing

Studies have shown that the prevalent cost element for manufacturing composite components is the cost of operating an autoclave. Traditional laminates are cured under vacuum, pressure and high-temperatures in an autoclave per manufacturer recommendations to flow, consolidate and cure the resin. However there are many drawbacks to using an autoclave; most notably, they are very inefficient in delivering heat to composite parts, thereby consuming excessive power. Autoclaves heat convectively, meaning they resistively heat air through a blower, which in-turn heats the surface of the composite. Since autoclaves contain a fixed volume of air, the cost to produce the heat remains fixed regardless of the size of composite part being cured, yielding the potential for much waste. MDC has demonstrated the use of CNT appliques to conductively cure composite components not only without an autoclave, but out-of-oven (O3) entirely. O3 conductive curing costs scales with part surface area rather than autoclave volume, thus providing a path for reducing composite acquisition costs by up to 50%, while providing more uniform properties and a means for degree-of-cure feedback.