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Composite Cure Process Modeling and Simulations using COMPRO® and Validation of Residual Strains using Fiber Optics Sensors



Composite cure process induced residual strains and warping deformations in composite components present significant challenges in the manufacturing of advanced composite structure. As a part of the Manufacturing Process and Simulation initiative of the NASA Advanced Composite Project (ACP), research is being conducted on the composite cure process by developing an understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which the process induced factors influence the residual responses. In this regard, analytical studies have been conducted on the cure process modeling of composite structural parts with varied physical, thermal, and resin flow process characteristics. The cure process simulation results were analyzed to interpret the cure response predictions based on the underlying physics incorporated into the modeling tool. In the cure-kinetic analysis, the model predictions on the degree of cure, resin viscosity and modulus were interpreted with reference to the temperature distribution in the composite panel part and tool setup during autoclave or hot-press curing cycles. In the fiber-bed compaction simulation, the pore pressure and resin flow velocity in the porous media models, and the compaction strain responses under applied pressure were studied to interpret the fiber volume fraction distribution predictions. In the structural simulation, the effect of temperature on the resin and ply modulus, and thermal coefficient changes during curing on predicted mechanical strains and chemical cure shrinkage strains were studied to understand the residual strains and stress response predictions. In addition to computational analysis, experimental studies were conducted to measure strains during the curing of laminated panels by means of optical fiber Bragg grating sensors (FBGs) embedded in the resin impregnated panels. The residual strain measurements from laboratory tests were then compared with the analytical model predictions. The paper describes the cure process procedures and residual strain predications, and discusses pertinent experimental results from the validation studies.

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