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Integrated design and novel tooling and process optimisation of microwave processing of composites (SIMUTOOL)


Published on 05 July 2017

A H2020 funded project was launched by TWI Ltd (co-ordinator), Loiretech SAS, Ecole Central De Nantes, Engineering Technology Solutions EE, ESI Group, OTTO-Friedrich-Universitaet Bamberg, Faurecia Automotive Composites and Airbus Group SAS in September 2015. SIMUTOOL will develop a simulation platform for the manufacturing of composites through microwave (MW) heating. The simulation will include the electromagnetic field coupled with heat transfer mechanisms that take place during the production process. It will also include the process control loop, which will enable the optimum design of the manufacturing process.

One of the major outputs of the simulation platform will be the successful design of a ceramic matrix composite tool with a MW absorbing layer in order to maximise the energy-saving potential of the MW heating process, and a dielectric measuring system which can perform measurements at MW frequency and elevated temperature.

Project background

The project addresses the manufacturing issues of MW heating of composites that stem from the lack of understanding of the basic physics of the process (the most important item being how carbon fibres interact with the microwave field). The project will increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the MW heating of composites process to 6-7.

Work programme

The approach to achieving the project’s technological objectives is to utilise high power modelling and simulation tools in order to completely model and understand the process. The high computing power will provide the means to understanding the complex physics involved in the conversion of electromagnetic energy to thermal energy (heating). This approach will ultimately enable a model-based virtual development of new products and substantially improve the competitiveness of the MW heating process.

SIMUTOOL is also aiming to provide a fully monitored production line where sensors are used to record process parameters in real time. This capability will allow individual part quality indicators to be monitored and used to keep track of the manufacturing line performance. The real-time monitoring of the whole process will create a large quantity of data that will have to be stored, analysed and communicated. These datasets, together with the developed models, can be used for further improvement of process control and deeper understanding of unexpected events (hot spots).

HEPHAISTOS VHM 100/100 MW oven at TWI Ltd

HEPHAISTOS VHM 100/100 MW oven at TWI Ltd

Surface current in the HEPHAISTOS microwave ovenSurface current in the HEPHAISTOS microwave oven

Furthermore, the recorded process data, together with the developed models, can be used for process control purposes, and to train shop floor personnel who will monitor the processes. For this, we exploit recent advances in ICT such as semantic representations of data, physical smart sensors, and data stream management systems for event-based process control.

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Jasmin Stein

Senior Project Leader - Composites

Jasmin is a senior project leader at TWI. She has over ten years' experience in composite processing, mechanical testing, non-destructive testing and structural health monitoring. She received her PhD in Advanced Composite Materials from The University of Manchester in 2013. Jasmin has technically managed and coordinated many UK (EPSRC, Innovate UK) and EU funded research projects (FP7 and H2020), involving composite development, structural health monitoring and process monitoring.

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