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Decision SA, Carboman Group unveil new direct mold tooling for aerospace applications

Material selection ensures tool surface and support structure match mold and part CTE for short lead times and highly stable direct molds at temperatures up to 180˚C.

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Direct mold tooling for aerospace.

All photo credit: Decision SA, Carboman Group

Decision SA (Ecublens, Switzerland), part of a leading European composites consortium, and Carboman Group (Vannes, France), announced on March 8 a new direct mold tooling technology for aerospace. 

Decision says the tooling solutions provides OEMs and manufacturers with short lead times for highly stable direct molds for series production both in and out of the autoclave at temperatures of up to 180˚C. The technology also does not require a traditional plug or mold pattern.

According to Decision, the direct mold process begins with the selection of a material combination for the tool surface and support structure to match the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of the mold and the composite part to be processed. The CNC-machined composite face sheet is supported by a stress-relieved metallic or composite backing structure before final post curing and machining is completed. The autoclaved composite tool surface is dimensionally stable up to processing temperatures of 180˚C, and can be configured with additional metallic inserts or fixtures if required. 

Produced in an EN 9100:2018-controlled production environment, and with CMM checks before and after machining, the new direct composite tools have dimensional tolerances of +/-0.2 millimeters. The available tooling dimensional envelope is currently defined by Decision’s 2,200 x 6,000 millimeter autoclave.

The company says this approach’s principal benefit, aside from removing the need for costly and time-consuming plug production, is the production accuracy delivered by the closely matched CTE between the mold tool and the finished composite part.

Side view of direct mold tooling technology.

Decision and Carboman recently provided a tooling glass prepreg, stainless-steel backed direct female mold tool created for the series production of a Class 3 fairing to a leading European aerospace OEM, the company said. Immediate availability and capacity for similar tooling projects with lead times are currently as short as six to eight weeks.

“With our new direct tooling technology, we are able to combine the highest technical standards in dimensional accuracy and thermal stability with extremely short lead times,” says Grégoire Metz, managing director, Decision SA. “Decision and Carboman Groups’ combined mission has always been to develop the construction methods for tomorrow’s composite structures, and we believe that this tooling solution will allow our customers to accelerate the implementation of the next-generation of high-performance carbon fiber aerostructures and components.”

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