A recent collaborative research project has resulted in a breakthrough technology that dramatically reduces the cycle time for producing carbon fiber composite parts using a resin transfer molding (RTM) process. The announcement was made last week during the Automotive Composites Conference and Exhibition (ACCE, Troy, Mich.)
Participants in the project, called “Automotive Lightweight Structure Elements of Carbon Composites,” included Toray Industries Inc., Nissan and five Japanese universities. Team members developed a process that reduced the resin impregnation step from 35 minutes to 3 minutes, and the resin cure step from 90 minutes to 5 minutes, resulting in an overall cycle time of 10 minutes, according to Toray’s Toru Yamanaka. The key technological breakthroughs were the development of an “anionic polymerized epoxy resin with a chain transfer agent” and a variety of quick impregnation methods, including multi-injection gate tooling and high-permeability fabrics, according to Yamanaka.