X-Ray Curing of Carbon Fiber Composites for Structural Automotive Components 2017-01-0504
Having demonstrated the feasibility of using X-rays derived from high current industrial electron beam accelerators (EB) to cure the matrices of carbon fiber composites and then scaled this up to cure large sized, non-structural automobile components, performance car hoods, the New York State Vehicle Composites Program had a chassis designed, a cured epoxy mold made and then the chassis matrix cured using X-rays with a formulated radiation responsive matrix material. A feasibility study had shown how X-rays could cure through materials embedded within the composite layers, such as metal inserts that could be used for mechanical fastening without fracturing the composite. In producing X-ray cured hoods, the power consumption for X-ray curing was found to be more than 20% lower than that needed for autoclave curing the same sized hoods using conventional thermosetting pre-pregs. More significant was the time-to-cure. With a full scale X-ray facility, cure times would be in the order of one minute or less per hood using pre-pregs. The X-ray curable matrix materials have outstanding shelf and storage stability at ambient conditions. The process requirements for X-ray curing the chassis were defined and the material properties of the composite used to fabricate the chassis were determined, including impact strength. Financial limitations precluded doing full scale crash testing. The New York State Vehicle Composites Program and this work and the work on curing automobile hoods as well as the prior feasibility studies on X-ray curing have been supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.