RocTool demos “startup” molding systems at JEC Paris
Calling it “ideal” for startup composites molders who don’t want to invest in ovens, autoclaves or time- consuming heated-tooling options, RocTool Inc. (Le Bourget du Lac, France) demonstrated its trademarked LIT out-of-autoclave/out-of-press process at JEC.
Calling it “ideal” for startup composites molders who don’t want to invest in ovens, autoclaves or time- consuming heated-tooling options, RocTool Inc. (Le Bourget du Lac, France) demonstrated its trademarked LIT out-of-autoclave/out-of-press process at JEC. LIT uses a rigid bottom tooling mold (made from nickel, steel or Invar), with a top “tool” that is actually a flexible bladder. When the flexible top mold is closed over the rigid bottom, the top forms itself to the rigid mold and applies pressure. The tool is heated very quickly by RocTool’s proprietary automated inductive heating system. When the mold is opened, the part lifts with the flexible top mold and is removed from it, rather than from the bottom tool. With current technology, LIT can mold parts up to 6m2. The part heated up for about 1.5 minutes (up to 190°C) and then cooled for a half minute or so. It also applied pressure up to 10 bar on the part demonstrated, but RocTool claims pressure up to 20 bar are possible. Total cycle time was 2-3 minutes. The cured part was cool enough to remove and handle without gloves. The matrix demonstrated was an epoxy slightly modified with a ther- moplastic, reinforced with carbon fiber. The process will work with standard epoxy or other thermosets in even less time, RocTool claims.
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Composite parts are formed in molds, also known as tools. Tools can be made from virtually any material. The material type, shape and complexity depend upon the part and length of production run. Here's a short summary of the issues involved in electing and making tools.