Liquid Resin Infusion
There is an urgent demand in the composites industry for alternative processing strategies that will reduce overall costs and increase the speed of manufacture of composite parts. Liquid resin infusion techniques make it possible to achieve this goal by eliminating the prepreg manufacturing process and autoclaving requirement and reduced labour costs. The primary objective of the liquid resin infusion research is the modification of selected resin systems to manufacture composite materials with improved toughness while retaining other critical properties.
Processing of Thermoplastics
There is a growing interest in thermoplastic composites for applications ranging from wind-turbines and automotive parts, to aircraft and space vehicles. This interest is driven by several factors including excellent material properties, potential for out-of-autoclave, low energy, rapid-throughput manufacturing processes, and recyclability into valuable products. Within IComp, we have several strands of research on thermoplastic composites processing. Our purchase of a €1M automated tape placement (ATP) machine has enabled us to begin research aimed at developing this method for production of high-performance materials with the ultimate goal of eliminating the need for post-processing in the autoclave.
The research on adhesive bonding carried out at UCD aims to understand and enhance composite-to-composite joints and composite-to-metal joints. The link between lab-scale and real-world component level behaviour is also investigated, with the objective to improve component and /or material design. This work is relevant to many industrial sectors including aerospace, automotive, energy, materials manufacturing, and transport.
The Surface Engineering group carries out research on the use of plasma treatments to modify the surfaces of polymers, ceramics, and metals. Using plasmas, the mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of surfaces can be modified at the nanometre and micron levels. Coatings can be deposited to both enhance material properties (such as wettability, cell/protein adhesion, and tribological properties) and to increase the strengths of adhesive bonds. The deposition of functional coatings can also be used to achieve better biocompatibility and increase anti-bacterial properties.
Joining composites and plastics to themselves and other materials is a key enabling technology for materials based manufacturing. However, joining dissimilar materials presents many technical challenges due to interface corrosion issues and disparities in thermal expansion coefficients. IComp research aims to overcome these challenges using thermal, mechanical, chemical and hybrid technologies. In this way we will enable industry to integrate these strong, light-weight and corrosion resistant materials into their existing and future products.
Damage Detection and Repair of Composites
Over the life of a component, the mechanical and other physical properties of composites may degrade due to wear, fatigue or some external impact. When a particular physical property degrades below a critical level, repair or replacement of the component is necessary. Factors which influence the durability of composite materials and their surface treatments may be broadly classified into chemical and mechanical categories. Some specific examples include erosion of wind turbine blades, leading to decreased power output or decreased strength of a composite material due to high temperature exposure.
IComp researchers investigate a variety of durability-related topics on behalf of industrial clients and as part of several EU-funded projects. Sample types which have been evaluated include thermoplastic and thermosetting composites, metallics, anti-erosion and low surface energy coatings and films, sandwich structures, perforated materials and bolted / bonded joints.
Modelling and Simulation
What really happens to materials during a manufacturing process? How will the materials perform in their environment? What are the problems with the current choice of materials or process and how can they be overcome? In moving from product concept to reality, these are typical questions that researchers seek to answer. Modelling and simulation are extremely valuable tools that can reduce the R&D time.
IComp’s expertise and capabilities range from calculating material behaviour at the microscopic scale in molecular dynamics simulations, to simulating liquid resin infusion and other manufacturing processes, to predicting composite behaviour due to thermal and structural loading, deformation, and damage using finite element analysis.
Drawing on resources from all our adademic members IComp utilises and has experience in several simulation platforms and techniques to aid in composite manufacture and design. Such analysis is essential to developing state-of-the-art solutions to the problems facing today’s composite design and manufacturing industry in Ireland.
|Abaqus||Commercial finite element analysis package, specialising in simulation and response of structures under stress. Also provides collection of Multiphysics computation capabilities, where multiple fields need to be coupled.|
|Accelrys Materials Studio||Allows a wide range of analyses from FT at the quantum level to diffraction predictions of crystals. Modules available include CASTEP, Amorphous Cell, Compass, Discover, Forcite, Reflex, and Visualizer.|
|COMSOL Multiphysics||Finite element simulation software providing robust user interfaces for coupling physics and engineering phenomena.|
|CRYSTAL06||A computation tool for periodic systems (solids).|
|ANSYS FLUENT||Commercial computational fluid dynamics (CFD) package. Allows a vast array of fluid simulations.|
|LAMMPS||An open-source classical molecular dynamics program. It can be used as a parallel particle simulator at the atomic, meso, or continuum scale.|
|NAMD||A free and open-source (for non-commercial use) molecular dynamics package for large biomolecular systems.|
|OpenFOAM||A highly parallelised open-source finite volume toolbox allowing development of solevrs for complex multi-physics applications.|
|PAM-RTM||A commercial code for optimising liquid resin infusion (LRI) manufacturing processes. Along with complementary software PAM-FORM and PAM-DISTORTION, provides a complete package for design and optimisation of LRI products.|
|VASP||A commercial package for performing ab-initio quantum-mechanical molecular dynamics (MD) using pseudo-potentials and a plane wave basis set.|
|Isight||A commercial package used to explore the structural and material design space, and identify the optimal design parameters subject to required constraints.|
|Tosca||A commercial optimization suite enabling engineers to create optimized design concepts, achieving the highest performance, quality, and eco-efficiency in a shorter development time.|