Cytec, Surface Generation demonstrate out-of-autoclave process for carbon fiber

Cytec and Surface Generation are collaborating on tests that combine Cytec's LTM carbon fiber tooling and structural prepreg with Surface Generation's Production to Functional Specifications out-of-autoclave process.

Cytec Engineered Materials Inc. (Tempe, Ariz., USA) reported on Nov. 15 that its industrial materials business (formed by the legacy Cytec HPIM and the legacy Umeco) and Surface Generation Ltd. (Oakham, Rutland, U.K.), a provider of advanced processing technologies, have demonstrated a significant advance in the production of carbon fiber composite parts.

Testing using Cytec's (previously known as Umeco) LTM carbon fiber tooling and MTM44-1 structural prepreg material revealed that Surface Generation’s Production to Functional Specifications (PtFS) process provided greater regional control than traditional autoclave and oven curing and outperformed the other methods across a range of temperature, cycle time and energy consumption metrics:

  • Surface Generation’s process, in conjunction with the LTM tooling, used a quarter of the energy required by an autoclave to cure parts and half of the energy required for a traditional oven cure.
  • The LTM tool-face temperature measurements were consistently within 0.5°C to 2°C of specified levels, using localized control of energy input to suit varying component thickness which is not possible with autoclave and oven cure processes.

PtFS encompasses a range of active thermal management technologies, allowing temperatures to be precisely controlled and varied to the requirements of each mold area and process stage. The unique process removes the need for large capital equipment, improves work flow and enables production of larger and more complex designs.

Cytec says it intends to collaborate further with Surface Generation to further characterise and exploit both companies’ complimentary technologies. Ben Halford, chief executive at Surface Generation, says: “PtFS represents the most significant step forward the industry has seen in years. Our unique process allows energy to be varied intelligently across the mold, delivering a precise and efficient means of curing carbon composite structures. These trials with Cytec, who are market leaders and pioneers in composite tooling technology, provide more evidence that the future of carbon composite processing lies outside of the oven and autoclave.”

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