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Compression Molding
Compression molding is one of the oldest manufacturing techniques in the composites industry.
The recent development of high strength, fast cure, sheet molding compounds bulk molding
compounds and advancement in press technology is making the compression molding process
very popular for mass production of composite parts.
Principle of Operation:
This process utilizes large tonnage presses wherein the part is cured between two matched steel
dies under pressure and high temperature. The moving platen is heated either by steam or
electricity to promote thermal curing. Curing of the part is affected by the following factors:
Œc?ize of platen, which determines the length and width of the part, which can be cured.
ŒcTotal tonnage of the press, which determines the pressure to be exerted on the projected
surface area of the part.

After placing the laminate to be cured called the 'charge' in the core of the mold, the cavity is
then closed at a rate of usually 4-12 mm/sec. In most cases the mold is heated to 150°C (302°F),
which causes the charge viscosity to be reduced. With increasing mold pressure as the mold is
closed, the charge flows towards the cavity extremities, forcing air out of the cavity. The
molding pressure based on projected part area ranges from 0.7 to 9 MPa (100 to 1200 psi).
Higher molding pressure causes sink marks, while lower pressure cause scumming of the mold
and porosity. The curing time is usually between 25 sec to 3 minutes depending on several
factors including' resin-initiator-inhibitor reactivity, part thickness, component complexity and
mold temperature.

The resultant, compression-moulded parts possess a spectrum of properties, including high

rigidity and strength (tensile, compression, impact) and good surface properties (gloss,
smoothness, paintability).In principle, the thickness of compression-moulded compounds are not
limited (in contrast to injection moulding).

The exertion of high pressure eliminates the problem of development of voids. The primary
advantage of the compression molding is its ability of producing large number of parts with little
dimensional variations, if any, from part to part. A wide variety of shapes, sizes and complexity
can be produced by compression molding.

Typically, the resins used for BMC, ?MC and MC are polyester-based: orthophthalic,
isophthalic, with styrene or acrylic monomers (cross linkers). In some cases, vinyl toluene and
di-allyl-phthalate (DAP) are used as monomers. For general use, styrene type monomers are
used. Whereas, for low shrink characteristics, acrylic types are used. Also, for high hot strength
(heat deflection temperature), vinyl type monomers are employed.
Catalysts and accelerators:
For polyester-type resins, peroxides are the main catalysts. Common examples are benzoyl
peroxide (BPO) and t-butyl perbenzoate, which is a high temperature catalyst.

Fillers are used in BMC, ?MC and MC as low cost inert additives. In addition, fillers can:
‡ modify the viscosity and act as flow control agents
‡ reduce the CTE
‡ serve as heat sink for exotherms that develop during the curing reaction
‡ increase hardness, rigidity and dimensional stability.
The most common powder filler is calcium carbonate. Ground clay (kaolin clay) is also used,
however it causes more discolouration and higher shrinkage than calcium carbonate. Talc is
often used for improved electrical strength and resistance to humidity. Aluminium hydrate is
commonly used for fire retardancy as it contains 35% of hydration water, which is released upon
exposure to fire. Powdered polyethylene is used in low profile (low shrinkage) formulations,
since it improves surface quality and impact strength. Antimony trioxide and chlorinated waxes
are also used for self-extinguishing properties.

Glass fibres:
Chopped E glass type fibres are used as the reinforcing agent. The fibres are coated with organic
binders, with lengths of 0.3 cm, 0.6 cm, 1.3 cm, and up to 5.1 cm. Occasionally, chopped fabrics
are used as an additional reinforcement.

To ensure controlled mouldability, thickeners are used for controlled increase of the viscosity of
the polyester resin. Typical thickeners are magnesium oxide and hydroxide, calcium oxides and

Miscellaneous additives:
In addition to the additives mentioned in the previous section, stearates are used for internal
mould release and as various pigments for colouring.