Composites Today

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Saint-Gobain and Roctool combine their unique technologies to boost 3D textile preform parts manufacturing

The Bordeaux site of Saint-Gobain Aerospace and Roctool joined efforts to offer fast composite or thermoplastic 3D textile preform parts manufacturing for a variety of applications and diversify in many sectors such as mobility, energy, medical, military, communications, aerospace and marine….

The Saint-Gobain 3D automated lay-up technology acquired in March 2018 allows for the design of components with the optimization of performance and weight. The manufacturing aspects of the knitted preform technology optimizes material usage, while cutting time and lay-up. This unique automated breakthrough technology replaces time-consuming hand lay-up by a fast reproducible 3D net shape manufacturing. The final composite or thermoplastic part obtained with this preforms is then consolidated during the curing with the infiltration of liquid thermoset resins or with the incorporation of thermoplastic fibers during the knitting.

Until now, the conventional curing cycle duration (5-10h) limited the production cadence of the 3D preform technology. Therefore, to truly leverage the Saint-Gobain productive lay-up systems, a fast-curing solution was also required. This has been achieved with the combination of the Saint-Gobain and Roctool technologies which increased the production capacity of a single mold by a factor x 50.

Roctool, a specialist in mold heating and cooling technologies for plastics and composites, developed a highly innovative molding system increasing dramatically the efficiency of the curing step (15 to 30 mn) for the polymerization of composite materials or the thermo compression of thermoplastic parts.

The patented Heat & Cool layout providesa fast and homogeneous heating on the mold surface through flexible inductors run through by a high frequency current and efficient cooling by standard cooling channels with fully turbulent water flow rate.

“The combination of these two technologies offers some of the highest manufacturing speed of today’s high-performance industries and definitely a new window of applications to our customers who need composite or thermoplastic parts. In the same time, both technologies improve dramatically the environmental footprint; the knitting technology does not produce any waste (30% materials savings in average) and does not need any freezer to store the raw material (like in the conventional composite industry with prepregs stored during 1 year at -18°C) The fast induction system saves up to 50% Kwh compared with a conventional oven cycle which would correspond to 50 tons CO2 per production line” states Scott Huth, General Manager for Saint-Gobain Aerospace.

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