Tooling design is crucial for the production of cost-effective and durable composite products. As part of the current search for cost reduction (by reducing capital investment, energy use and cycle time), integrally-heated tooling is one of the technologies available for ‘out-of-autoclave’ processing of advanced thermoset polymer composites. Despite their advantages, integrally-heated tools can suffer from uneven distribution of temperature, variability in heat flow rate and inconsistency in heating/cooling time. This research, therefore, investigates a number of design variables such as shape and layout of heating channels in order to improve the heating performance of an integrally-heated tool. Design of Experiments (DoE) has been carried out using Taguchi’s Orthogonal Array (OA) method to set several combinations of design parameters. Each of these design combinations has been evaluated through numerical simulation to investigate heating time and mould surface temperature variation. The simulation results suggest that the layout of the channels and their separation play a vital role in the heating performance. Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio and analysis of variance (ANOVA) have been applied to the results obtained to identify the optimal design combination of the integrally-heated tool. Statistical analysis reveals that the heating performance of an integrally-heated tool can be significantly improved when the channels’ layout is parallel. The shape of the channels has negligible effect and the distance between the channels should be determined based on the production requirement. According to the predicted optimal design, a developed integrally water-heated tool is manufactured. The actual thermal properties of the constituent materials of the produced tool are also measured. Then a numerical model of the experimental tool model is simulated in ANSYS software, with setting the actual material properties and boundary condition to define the temperature uniformity and heating rate of the experimental tool. Comparison of the experimental and numerical results of the experimental tool confirmed the well assigning of the boundary conditions and material properties during simulation the heated tool. The experimental results also confirmed the predicted optimal design of the integrally heated tool. Finally, in order to define its thermomechanical behaviour under the effective (in service) thermal loads, a tool model is simulated. Numerical results presented that the produced extremes of thermal deformation, elastic strain, normal and plane shear stresses, under the effective thermal loading, are within the allowable elastic limits of the participated materials.

Document Type


Publication Date