Engineering Composites Research Centre


The Engineering Composites Research Centre was established in the University of Ulster over twenty years ago and has focused its efforts in developing 3D weaving for the manufacture of reinforcements (technical textiles) for composites.

The Centre remains the UK leader in the development of this technology. The Group has developed expertise in the design, modelling and prediction of the performance of these technical textile structures and built up an integrated design and manufacture system for both flat (multi-layer) fabric reinforcements and preforms for specific components such as spars, aerofoil sections and monolithic ribs.


    Expertise

    The centre has an impressive skills base drawing on expertise from the engineering and science backgrounds of the staff involved in the centre.

    Typical areas of expertise are:

    • Unique design and manufacture – carbon tow through to component
    • Personnel with a varied skills base
    • Design and development and manufacture of 3D tailored complex textiles
    • Materials characterisation
    • Advanced composite manufacturing
    • Modelling of mechanical properties
    • Predictive models

    Research

    Weaving technology is increasingly being used to produce dry multilayered preforms that are subsequently infused with a liquid matrix material to produce high performance composites.

    Three dimensionally (3D) woven composites, in particular, have been shown to possess many advantages compared to traditional performing methods with the ability to tailor fiber placement in the X-, Y-, and Z-axis directions.

    Manufacturing and performance advantages have been discussed extensively in literature, for example, improvements in compression-after-impact (CAI) strength compared with two-dimensional (2D) laminated composites and the ability to produce ‘near-net-shape’ preforms.

    The 3D woven composites produced at ECRE exhibit a crack propagation value of G1C which is an order of magnitude greater than 2D woven structures, thus indicating a significantly higher resistance to delamination growth than 2D woven structures.


    • Jacquard Controlled Weaving Loom

      Manufacturer : Bonas
      Controller :Series 250
      No. of hooks : 1152
      No. of Bobbins : 600
      Weave width : 500mm max

      The loom is used to weave designs in both 2-D and 3-D.It uses single rapier weft insertion and has a variable speed take up motion.

      The controller accepts design data from a 3.5” floppy disc.

      This versatile set-up allows the machine to weave many complex designs in carbon fibre.

      The work completed so far has included the manufacture of net shaped performs such as T pieces and I sections for structural applications.

      The 3-D designs are first completed on XS cross-sectional design software and then formatted for use with the Bonas 250 loom controller.

    • Resin Transfer Moulding System

      Manufacturer : Gewlab/ Widnes England 
      Model Number : A41HS 
      Serial Number : 96L009 
      Electrical Heating : 3 Phase, 415 V, 9kW,3kW/Phase 
      Max Temperature : 300oC 
      Heat up time for Max Temp : <100 Mins>
      Internal Oven Dims : 720mm x 1500mm x 1180mm Temperature Controller : Eurotherm 902 
      Rotary Vacuum Pump : Edwards model speedivac Vacuum Controller : Edwards 553 Vacuum Controller Code No. : D395-53-000

      The resin transfer moulding system located in the Engineering Composites Research Centre has been used to manufacture a range of composite components.

      These components include 3-D and 2-D reinforced composites

    • SMARTweave® Flow monitoring System

      Manufacturer: Micromet Instruments, Inc. USA. 
      Year Of Manufacture : 2001

      SMARTweave® is a resin flow analysis system developed by the US Army Research Laboratory.

      The SMARTweave® system consists of a sensor grid, an electronics package to rapidly interrogate the grid, and a software programme to control, record, and display the sensor data.

      The sensor grid is laid up in the RTM mould and used to map the flow of resin during mould filling by measurements of the electrical properties at each junction of the grid.

      Control screen on Monitor SMARTweave® Detection grid in RTM Mould

    • Polymer and Composite testing equipment

      Thermal Analysis Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)

      Manufacturer : TA Instruments
      Model Number : DSC Q100

      The DSC is used to measure temperature and heat flow associated with material transitions providing quantitative and qualitative data on endothermic and exothermic processes.

      Glass transitions, Melting points, Crystallisation, Rate of cure, Degree of cure, Purity, Thermal stability

      DSC provides important information that can be used to characterise materials, selection of best materials for specific applications, provides ability to predict product performance, optimisation of processing conditions and to improve quality.

      Simultaneous Thermogravimetric Analysis and Differential Scanning Calorimetry (TGA/DSC)

      Manufacturer: TA Instruments
      Model Number : Q600 TGA used to characterise thermal decomposition behaviour.

      Provides information on

      • fibre volume fraction of composites
      • thermal stability
      • temperature of on-set of degradation
      • oxidative degradation
      • composition of polymer blends

      Instrument operates on null-balance principle. TGA can be interfaced with other analytical instruments (gas chromatography or mass spectrometer) for multiple measurements.

      Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA)

      Manufacturer : TA Instruments

      Model Number : Q800 DMA measures changes in the viscoelastic properties of materials resulting from changes in temperature, frequency, and time.

      Predict end use product performance

      • Measuring glass transition and secondary transition temperatures
      • Understanding and optimising curing phenomena in thermosets
      • Predicting physical ageing of amorphous materials
      • Correlating impact stability and damping

      DMA one of the most sensitive single techniques available for characterising and interpreting the mechanical behaviour of materials. The concept of DMA is based on observing the viscoelastic response of materials subjected to a small oscillatory strain.

      The DMA operates under four modes: resonant frequency, fixed frequency, stress relaxation, and creep. Each of these modes measures different aspects of the viscoelastic properties.

      Dielectric Analysis (DEA)

      Manufacturer: TA Instruments
      Model Number : DEA 2970 Dielectric Analyser

      Uses of DEA

      Process optimisation

      • End-use performance prediction
      • Identification of key cure parameters
      • Glass transitions
      • Polymer morphology

      Provides valuable information about molecular and rheological behaviour of materials. DEA can characterise molecular relaxations, monitor the flow and cure of resins, and calculate activation energies for molecular relaxations.

      It is an ultrasensitive technique making it possible to detect transitions which are not seen by other techniques.

      Four sensor types available which are interchangeable and disposable.

      The systems exceptional versatility permits analysis of bulk or surface properties.

    • Material Testing Equipment

      Impact Testing Equipment

      Manufacturer: Instron
      Model Number : Dynatup® 9200 Series

      The Instron Dynatup impact testing machine is designed to measure energy absorption and related impact properties of polymers, metals, composites and resulting final components. It is ideally suited for use in aerospace, automotive, biomedical and specializing in finished product applications.

      Zwick Materials Testing Machine

      State of the art materials testing instrument with computer aided data acquisition and analysis.

      Type : Z100/TL3A with 3D ESPI Strain Measuring System

      Load range : 0 to 100KN.

      Instron 1000 Materials Testing Machine

      Traditional materials testing instrument currently used for testing of textile yarns, sewing threads and fabrics.

      Load range : 0 to 5 KN.


    Collaborations

    • Rolls Royce
    • Bombardier Aerospace
    • FG Wilson
    • BE Aerospace
    • Axis composites
    • BAE Systems
    • Airbus UK
    • Dowty Propellers
    • DeepSea group
    • Park Hill Textiles
    • Boxmore Plastics Ltd (Composite Division)
    • Arntz Belting Company

    Contact

    If you would like to discuss any work related to ECRE contact Edward Archer.