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Introduction To Low Cost Manufacturing Of Polymeric Composites

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.659.1 - 6.659.8



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Ajit Kelkar

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Devdas Pai

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Session 2663

Introduction to Low-Cost Manufacturing of Polymeric Composites

Devdas M. Pai, Ajit D. Kelkar NSF Center for Advanced Materials & Smart Structures Department of Mechanical Engineering NC A&T State University, Greensboro, NC 27411

Abstract Composites are popular in high performance applications owing to their high specific strength characteristic and an endurance limit greater than that of traditional structural materials such as steel and aluminum. The paper discusses an experiment designed for students to be exposed to the low-cost manufacturing of high performance composites. The experiment is designed for a junior level manufacturing processes laboratory.

In this experiment, students use the Vacuum Assisted Resin Infusion Molding process (VARIM) to fabricate woven polymeric composite panels. A mold is loaded with the preform made of the reinforcement material. The mold is then closed and resin is injected into it, aided by a vacuum pressure at the vents to remove all the entrapped air in the preform and speed up the process. Resin flows in the plane as well as in the transverse direction of the preform.

Students evaluate the quality of their work by testing tensile coupons cut out of those panels. Four groups of up to five students work on producing four panels. Twenty tensile coupons are cut from each panel, and coupon tests enable students to compare spatial variation of properties within a given panel caused by the manufacturing process. In addition to the experience in processing, measuring, and statistical analysis, students become aware of cost considerations in manufacturing, since they are required to track materials and labor costs during the experiment.

I. Introduction The VARIM process is popular because of its time saving and cost effective characteristics1,2. It is now used in many defense sector applications, in marine applications for building the outer bodies of ships and in the transport industry for the storage of materials. Much research has gone into fine-tuning the VARIM process3,4 to get consistent mechanical properties. The present experiment aims to expose undergraduate mechanical engineering students to the manufacturing and related technologies of non-traditional polymeric products. The experiment is conducted over three lab meetings – two devoted to fabrication and one to the testing of tensile coupons cut out of the panels. Figure 1 shows a typical VARIM setup and Figure 2 shows a schematic of this process.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Kelkar, A., & Pai, D. (2001, June), Introduction To Low Cost Manufacturing Of Polymeric Composites Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9478

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