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SBIR/STTR

Carbon Foam Self-Heated Tooling for Out-of-Autoclave Composites Manufacturing, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Carbon Foam Self-Heated Tooling for Out-of-Autoclave Composites Manufacturing, Phase I
This proposal addresses NASA's need for non-autoclave composites manufacture. The Constellation program, including the Ares V launch vehicle, will require very large-scale structures and conventional autoclave-based composites which are very costly and suffer from logistical problems. Out of autoclave (OOA) composite manufacturing technology has the potential to solve the constraint issues of autoclave processes without suffering performance issues. However, several critical issues remain a technical challenge, and further development is required to bring OOA into the mainstream of composites manufacturing. Touchstone proposes to demonstrate that a composite tool made from its carbon foam materials can be self-heated by passing an electric current through the tool body, thereby heating only the tool and part and not requiring an autoclave or oven for curing. In Phase 1, a small prototype tool will be built and tested for self-heating performance in comparison to a conventional autoclave cure cycle on the same tool. Specific resin systems suited for OOA processing will be utilized, and performance properties of composite samples produced by both the self-heated carbon foam tool and a conventional carbon foam autoclave tool will be characterized. At the end of Phase 1, the TRL will be 4, and by the conclusion of Phase 2, the TRL will reach 6. More »

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