Scottish expertise produces breakthrough in ‘out-of-autoclave’ manufacturing



An autoclave is kind of pressurised oven, typically used to manufacture wings or wind turbine blades. They’re expensive ($4 million each) and slow. Here’s why they are typically used:

‘The use of carbon fibre reinforced composites for aerospace structures has seen a high increase in recent years, and is still growing. The high stiffness-to-weight ratio of these materials makes them ideal for primary structures on airplanes, satellites, and spacecrafts. Nevertheless, the manufacturing of composites remains very costly since it requires equipment investment such as an autoclave, and very qualified workers.‘

However, a Prestwick-based consortium of Spirit AeroSystems, the University of Strathclyde and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems has developed a cheaper and faster method where the autoclave is dispensed with and replaced by a specialised ‘intelligent’ heating tool. The new process maty reduce costs by 50% and time taken by 40%. Here’s an extract from the report in the Scottish Business News Network:

‘In an industrial context, autoclaves are vessels used to process materials in a mould at high pressures and temperatures. They typically “cure” high-performance components, placing the part in a vacuum within an autoclave and then applying a combination of pressure and heat during a pre-determined cycle – typically two hours at the cure temperature. The result is a high-strength, lightweight component for use in a range of high-value manufacturing sectors, predominantly aerospace. Normally, these parts are cured for a standard period of time, at a set temperature, regardless of how they are responding to the curing process. The consortium in Prestwick has improved on this by creating a tool that removes the need for an autoclave, which typically represents around US$4 million in upfront capital expenditure, while allowing users to monitor and match a cure cycle to a component’s geometric characteristics and how it is reacting to the process.’

This is another first for Scotland in recent months. See also:

MAJOR NEWS: World’s first tidal-powered hydrogen generated in Scotland after £3 million funding from SNP Government

A world first for Scotland’s renewable energy industry. Neither Queen nor Prince Charles to open it due to fear of deep water.

Scottish research first to identify ways of reducing cattle-fart with view to saving the planet



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