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From: Yakov Horenstein (
Date: Fri Oct 10 1997 - 13:22:55 EEST

Motor-Vehicle Manufacturing Technology (October 1997)

Low Cycle Time Liquid Molding Process for Automotive Structural Components


     Develop a liquid molding process for manufacturing automotive
     structural components out of affordable, high-performance
     composite materials with the potential to bring about a
     factor-of-ten reduction in equipment, tooling, and design costs.

Sponsor: Stewart Automotive Research, LLC

1260 Shotwell Drive
Houston, TX 77020

   * Project duration: 3 years
   * Total project (est.): $2,311 K
   * Requested ATP funds: $1,999 K

Despite their light weight and high strength, composite materials (hybrids
of two or more materials) are rarely used in structural parts for
automobiles because of quality control problems and the difficulty of
achieving high performance at affordable costs. Stewart Automotive Research
(SAR) proposes to develop a manufacturing process and associated software
package to produce composites that are cost competitive with steel and will
help pave the way toward a new class of ultra-lightweight vehicles. SAR
plans to make the parts by infusing a fibrous preform with a highly reactive
resin using a proprietary process called Zoned Pressure Molding (ZPM), which
provides active control over resin flow and thereby improves quality
control. The preform is placed in a hard tool and resin is distributed
across its surface before infusing down through the part. The distribution
is rapid because, unlike conventional liquid molding processes, the resin
does not need to flow through the preform to reach the perimeter of the
part. As a result, highly reactive resins can be used, shortening the curing
cycle to as little as 90 seconds and enabling the formation of very large
parts with inexpensive tooling. Technical challenges include the development
of tough, heat-resistant materials (e.g., fiber-reinforced plastics or
elastomers) for use in the upper mold surface. Computational Mechanics Co.
and Rice University will provide flow modeling and materials testing
expertise. Other challenges include programming the flow control equipment
to achieve the desired flow over and through the preform. A cost-effective
simulation tool will be designed to model this process. ZPM promises
order-of-magnitude reductions in equipment, tooling, and design costs. If
successful, the project could transform the design of automobiles by
maximizing the performance of inexpensive reinforcing materials. The new
materials and processes would reduce vehicle weight and the number of parts

For project information:
     David H. Stewart, (713) 675-3244

ATP Project Manager:
     Jack Boudreaux, (301) 975-3560

This file last updated on October 8, 1997.

Yakov Horenstein
Milano, Italy

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