3D permeability characterization of fibrous media

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University of Delaware
In Liquid Composite Molding (LCM) processes, a liquid resin is forced to flow through dry fibrous preform, usually fabrics, to impregnate it and create the composite part in net or near-net shape. The principal advantage of LCM processes is their capacity to produce high fiber volume fraction and high quality parts under low pressure at low cost. The main conditions for successful manufacturing are complete filling of the mold and perfect impregnation of the reinforcement material. If these conditions are not met the structural properties of the finished part are significantly impaired by defects like voids. The mold filling depends on the permeability of the fibrous media. Permeability is an intrinsic property of fiber reinforcement, which includes all interactions between fibers and fluid and characterizes the ease of flow through the medium. The complete prediction of second-order permeability tensor is critical to understanding and prediction of flow in the resin transfer molding process of thick composites or where the flow process is three dimensional In this thesis a new approach for characterizing the three dimensional permeability tensor of fabrics used as reinforcement in liquid injection molding processes from a single experiment is presented and validated. In this approach, a liquid is injected into a preform placed in a mold containing 192 electrical resistance flow sensors radially embedded in the top and the bottom platens of the mold. The proposed method uses an optimization routine in which the permeabilities in a 3D flow simulation of the identical mold is updated continuously until the error between the simulation arrival times at all the 192 sensor locations and the experimental arrival time is minimum. The optimization routine systematically changes the values of the components of the permeability tensor using golden search method until the best match is obtained. The validation and sensitivity of this method is explored and it has been shown that this technique is promising for permeability characterization. The approach is shown to be valid for reinforcements with anisotropic and isotropic nature The advantage of this approach is that it can be used to obtain permeability values from a single experiment; there is no need to scale the circular injection inlet, and it is not limited to principal permeability values. The sensors utilized are unobtrusive to the flow unlike say optic fibers embedded in the fabric that interfere with the flow of the test fluid. The electrical resistance sensors used in this approach are embedded in mold platens instead and which flush with the surface. The method can be used to help predict and understand resin flow behavior during liquid molding of advanced composite materials.