Direct Fabrication of Polymer Composite Structures with Curved LOM
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This report describes the application of Curved LOM to the direct fabrication of polymer matrix composites (PMCs). The overall methodology of directly fabricating PMC parts involved the use of the Curved LOM machine to lay-up and shape "green" composite laminates from prepreg feedstocks, followed by vacuum bag / oven cure and consolidation. The conventional Curved LOM laminator was replaced with a vacuum thermoforming apparatus to better accommodate the bonding of commercially available prepregs. The study also demonstrated that it is possible to interface a general composite design sofiware package with the Curved LOM machine via the curved slice file (.CSF) format. Taken together, these two improvements allow for improved flexibility in manufacturing PMC components, from both a material handling and a design point-of-view. A simple C-shaped panel was fabricated and tested to demonstrate the overall feasibility of the process for PMCs. A glass fiber 1 epoxy prepreg obtained from a commercial supplier was used as a model material system. It was found that the cumulative accuracy of the overall process was good, and the mechanical properties of the laminates were acceptable for nonstructural applications for which the material is normally used.