Communications Project

Document Type:Master's Thesis
Name:Aaron C. Caba
Title:Verification of a Three-Dimensional Resin Film Infusion Proecss Simulation Model
Degree:Master of Science
Department:Engineering Science and Mechanics
Committee Chair: Alfred C. Loos
Committee Members:Romesh C. Batra
Eric R. Johnson
Keywords:resin film infusion, resin transfer molding, composite manufacturing, simulation, modeling, textile preform, flow in porous media, heat transfer
Date of defense:February 4, 1998
Availability:Release the entire work for Virginia Tech access only.
After one year release worldwide only with written permission of the student and the advisory committee chair.


This investigation completed the verification of a three-dimensional resin transfer molding/resin film infusion (RTM/RFI) process simulation model. The model incorporates resin flow through an anisotropic carbon fiber preform, cure kinetics of the resin, and heat transfer within the preform/tool assembly. The computer model can predict the flow front location, resin pressure distribution, and thermal profiles in the modeled part.

The formulation for the flow model is given using the finite element/control volume (FE/CV) technique based on Darcy's Law of creeping flow through a porous media. The FE/CV technique is a numerically efficient method for finding the flow front location and the fluid pressure. The heat transfer model is based on the three-dimensional, transient heat conduction equation, including heat generation. Boundary conditions include specified temperature and convection. The code was designed with a modular approach so the flow and/or the thermal module may be turned on or off as desired. Both models are solved sequentially in a quasi-steady state fashion.

A mesh refinement study was completed on a one-element thick model to determine the recommended size of elements that would result in a converged model for a typical RFI analysis. Guidelines are established for checking the convergence of a model, and the recommended element sizes are listed.

Several experiments were conducted and computer simulations of the experiments were run to verify the simulation model. Isothermal, non-reacting flow in a T-stiffened section was simulated to verify the flow module. Predicted infiltration times were within 12-20 percent of measured times. The predicted pressures were approximately 50 percent of the measured pressures. A study was performed to attempt to explain the difference in pressures.

Non-isothermal experiments with a reactive resin were modeled to verify the thermal module and the resin model. Two panels were manufactured using the RFI process. One was a stepped panel and the other was a panel with two `T' stiffeners. The difference between the predicted infiltration times and the experimental times was 4 to 23 percent.

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