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Polymer Composites

Poly E-410

Dr Atif Javaid

Polymer & Process Engineering Department

University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore


Lecture 5
14th February 2015

Processing of Polymer Composites
Short fibre composites
BMC Moulding
SMC Moulding
Cold Press Moulding

Processing of Polymer Composites

Intrinsically linked to architecture of the composite

Producing PMC components involves a number of stages.

Constituent fibres & polymers produced.
Sized (coated) fibres available as unidirectional tows (3K, 6K, 12K, fibres) or
rovings, woven fabrics or chopped strand mat.
Fibres can be combined with liquid resin; contact moulding (hand lay-up) &
left to cure.
Alternatively, intermediate produced;
Prepreg (pre-impregnated) (fibres pre-impregnated with partially cured
Sheet moulding compound, SMC (chopped glass fibres in polymer)
Intermediate stored for later use.

Prepreg (usually with epoxy resins)

Reinforcement is pre-impregnated with resin
soluble and fusible
swollen but not dissolved by a variety of solvents
rigid, hard, insoluble, infusible

safer than liquid resins

mixing done by suppliers > better quality
expensive relative to dry reinforcements

finite shelf life: not use-by date
if out-of-date should not be used for applications which may
result in injury, loss or damage.

time the roll of the material is out of cold storage

will reduce its useful life (shelf life)
normal to allow the material to warm to ambient
temperature before use as condensation may form
on cold material

Pre-preg systems
cold-cure (not normally prepreg)
cure at ambient temperature
low temperature systems:
cure at ~60C, shelf life typically 3 months
medium temperature systems:
cure at ~120C, shelf life typically 6 months,
high temperature systems:
cure at ~180C, shelf life typically one year.

key considerations include:
formability to complex curvatures
The process of removing air from a prepreg. Debulking
increases the density of the prepreg. every few layers form a
stack and is subjected to vacuum in temporary bag or a
vacuum table.

Short Fibre Composites - BMC


Economical process for high volume

production of small-medium components.
Bulk Molding Compound (BMC) is a pre
mixed fiber reinforced material that cures
under heat and pressure
Preform of moulding compound placed in
the heated mould cavity
Pressed into the finished shape.
Heat from mould initiates cure
Surface finish produced is excellent.
Mould - aluminium, cast iron or steel.
Electrical housings, car body panels, gas
& electricity meter boxes, car road
wheels, etc.
Styrene emission reduced since it is a
closed mould process.

Short Fibre Composites - SMC Moulding

High volume production of small-tomedium sized components.

Sheet moulding compound (SMC) is an
intermediate material in which resin &
reinforcement are already premixed
Sheet cut to a shape
Mould closed then heat applied to
form & cure the part.
Process uses an accurate matched
metal mould placed in a heated press.
Automotive applications - car bumpers
& car and truck body panels.

Short Fibre Composites - Cold Press Moulding

Intermediate process between contact

moulding & hot press moulding.
Reinforcement cut & placed in the mould.
Cold curing resin system poured in
Press closed causing resin to impregnate
the reinforcement.
Exothermic heat generated during gelation
together with pressure provoke cure.
Once the moulding has cured, it is released
from the mould.
Mould can be made of GRP or cheap metal.
Therefore inexpensive.
Automotive, industrial & electrical applications.
Tooling cost range covers small, simple to
large, complex moulds.