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Cytec and Surface Generation trials highlight step-change in carbon fibre composite manufacturing

Trials conducted by Cytec’s industrial materials business (formed by the legacy Cytec HPIM and the legacy Umeco), an international leader in advanced composite materials and composite tooling technology, and Surface Generation Ltd, a provider of advanced processing technologies, have demonstrated a significant advance in the production of carbon fibre-reinforced composite parts.

Testing using Cytec (previously known as Umeco)’s market leading LTM carbon fibre tooling and MTM44-1 structural prepreg material revealed that Surface Generation’s unique ‘Production to Functional Specifications’ (PtFS) process provided significantly greater regional control than traditional autoclave and oven curing and out-performed the other methods across a range of temperature, cycle time and energy consumption metrics:

  • Surface Generation’s process, in conjunction with the LTM tooling, used a quarter of the energy required by an autoclave to cure parts and half of the energy required for a traditional oven cure.
  • The LTM tool-face temperature measurements were consistently within 0.5 °C to 2 °C of specified levels, using localised control of energy input to suit varying component thickness which is not possible with autoclave and oven cure processes.

PtFS encompasses a range of active thermal management technologies, allowing temperatures to be precisely controlled and varied to the exact requirements of each mould area and process stage. The unique process removes the need for large capital equipment, improves work flow and enables production of larger and more complex designs.

Cytec’s unparalleled expertise in leading edge composite tooling materials and technology, and out of autoclave processing for structural components, mean they intend to collaborate further with Surface Generation to further characterise and exploit both companies’ complimentary technologies.

Ben Halford, Chief Executive at Surface Generation, comments: “PtFS represents the most significant step forward the industry has seen in years. Our unique process allows energy to be varied intelligently across the mould, delivering a precise and efficient means of curing carbon composite structures. These trials with Cytec, who are market leaders and pioneers in composite tooling technology, provide more evidence that the future of carbon composite processing lies outside of the oven and auto-clave.”

Alasdair Ryder, High Volume Manufacturing Manager at Cytec, comments: “The combination of out-of-autoclave technologies from Cytec and Surface Generation has significant potential to drive cost, quality and efficiency improvements in carbon fibre composite manufacturing processes. We look forward to working with Surface Generation to explore opportunities with aerospace, automotive, motorsport and renewable businesses around the world.”

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