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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Composite Fabrication : Resin Transfer Molding (RTM)

RTM or Resin Transfer Molding is a closed mold process. In this process, matched male and female molds are being used. Before the process injection, fiber pre-form is places in the mold cavity. Then the molds are clamped. Resin mix then is injected or transferred into the cavity through injection ports at a relatively low pressure.
Schematic diagram of RTM process
Injection pressure is normally less than 690 kPa (or 100psi). The displaced air is allowed to escape through vents to avoid dry spots. Cure cycle is dependent on part thickness, type of resin system and the temperature of the mold and resin system. The part cures in the mold, normally heated by controller, and is ready for its removal from the mold when sufficient green strength is attained.

RTM offers the promise of producing low cost FRP parts with complex structures and large near net shapes. Relatively fast cycle times with good surface definition and appearance are easily achievable. The ability to consolidate parts allows the saving of considerable amount of time over conventional lay-up processes.
Example of RTM Machine
Since RTM is not limited by the size of the autoclave or by pressure, new tooling approaches can be utilized to fabricate large, complicated structures. However, the development of the RTM process has not fulfilled its full potential. For example, the RTM process is yet to be automated in operations such as preforming, reinforcement loading, demolding, and trimming. Therefore, RTM can be considered an intermediate volume molding process.

Several unresolved issues in RTM encountered by composite engineers are in the areas of process automation, preforming, tooling, mold flow analysis and resin chemistry. During the last decade, rapid advances in RTM technology development have demonstrated the potential of the RTM process for producing advanced fibre reinforced plastic and composite parts.
RTM Simulation

Product of RTM Process

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