Advantage thanks to innovative production technologies

The current issue of the renowned "JEC COMPOSITES Magazine" (pp. 24 ff) describes technological and economic advantages of the manufacturing technology used at SMT. While operating with the vacuum infusion process most manufacturer still use single-use consumable vacuum bags. SMT, on the other hand, relies on tailor made, self-separating, reusable silicon membranes for larger quantities. The advantages are evident: increased output, higher reproducibility and quality value, but also to save material costs.

Read on, to learn more about the benefits and other manufacturing options of using silicone membranes.

by Alan Harper, Founder and CEO Alan Harper Composites

“There is always resistance to change and still potential clients who feel that if reusable membranes are as good as they claim then why is it that not everyone is using them? Reusable membranes are changing the composites industry as one of the most viable alternatives to the higher-cost closed mould processes of RTM and LRTM and unsound, single-use consumable vacuum bagging infusion. The floodgates of change are opening and those who feel it is just a fad may think so at their own commercial peril. Trading in the vacuum reusable membranes sector for over seven years and yet previously known as a specialist in closed-mould RTM and LRTM for over two and a half decades, Alan Harper Composites feels absolutely correct and true in bringing the good news that reusables have a significant role to play as an alternative moulding process. To be absolutely clear in this narrative, it should be pointed out there is no claim that reusable vacuum membranes are the alternative panacea moulding process to replace RTM, LRTM or traditional infusion processes. However, each process, in many cases, can be performed with lower cost due to significant material and labour savings and lower tooling amortization costs. The disadvantage, if indeed it is considered a disadvantage in every case, is that they do not provide a perfectly smooth engineered surface on both faces of the moulded component but only one.

Various applications Alan Harper Composites’ reusable membranes are used in a variety of applications, as reported in the user case stories below. Forster System-Montage-Technik GmbH (SMT), Germany, were finalists in this year’s prestige JEC Innovation Awards for their contribution to the renovation of the ICE train. The ICE is the fastest train of the Deutsche Bahn fleet, with over 66 trains in use. The fleet was introduced in 2000 and, in order to renovate the carriages to meet modern comfort standards, the interior received upgrades including the passengers’ entertainment and air conditioning systems. This added additional weight and had to be compensated by sophisticated lightweighting solutions, including a lightweight flooring system. The entire floor system, with an average panel size of 2400 x 1200 mm, was renewed by exchanging former heavy plywood with lightweight GFRP panels. These were all sandwich panels manufactured by the vacuum infusion process using vinylester resin. Importantly, the production process incorporated reusable silicon membrane technologies. This technique was implemented and adjusted by SMT to allow an enhanced process with increased output, to gain higher reproducibility and quality value, but also to save material costs. This resulted in the competitive production of high-end flooring composites with minimum material waste while achieving the highest fire safety standards with 98% less flame progress, 57x less smoke generation and 12x higher tensile strength compared to the hand lay-up solutions in competition…”

Reference: complete article (pp. 24 ff)

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