In a Q&A session, Composites in Manufacturing spoke to Rockwood Composites’ managing director, Mark Crouchen at the recent Advanced Engineering 2017 show to hear more about the company’s novel compression and bladder moulding processes.
Q: What does Rockwood Composites specialise in?
Rockwood Composites is a manufacturer of composite components, primarily with both compression and bladder moulding of prepreg materials using metal tooling. This is the corner of the composites industry that we are in, and the reason we are here at Advanced Engineering 2017 is to demonstrate what we can do, what we are capable of making and the design freedom that can be derived from using our processing methods.
Q: What processes are you demonstrating here today?
We have two main processes and they are compression and bladder moulding. Bladder moulding enables hollow structures that can be very intricate in their shape, and they are one-piece, rather than two shells that are bonded together.
This is what a lot of people find fascinating in that they are not two parts bonded – there is no bond line – and this is very important for structures that have to cope with high stresses, because you don’t want to use two-piece bonding if the stresses end up going through a bond line. Our manufacturing process provides a very good structural component.
On the compression moulding side, these can be monolithic composite structures involving either solid carbon or glass fibre - or contain some honeycomb or foam structure inside them. These parts are net-edge moulded around all the surfaces, so that every side of the component has a tool surface. This provides a lot of control, freedom and detail that you can put into a component without having to bond two pieces together.
Q: Are these processes faster than traditional autoclave production?
Well, it is very quick – we use exactly the same materials and the same prepregs, and obviously the prepreg is very tightly controlled and there is traceability for all these types of things. All we are doing is basically configuring the manufacturing method in a different way. We are still applying heat and pressure, but just in a different manner - that’s all we are doing. By doing this, we can offer the designers a lot more freedom in the components they design.
Q: The Advanced Engineering show must be ideal to explain all these manufacturing methods?
It’s fascinating, and over previous years, we have undertaken the manufacture of expanding cores and making little coasters and people flocked to our stand to see them! This year we decided to do something slightly different by showing them our bladder moulding process. We have been making little bottle openers, which people are just fascinated with and they have been literally flying off the shelves as fast as we can mould them!
For more information, watch our Composites in Manufacturing website video link: http://bit.ly/2B9PxZT