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Seong Taek Lim, Woo Il Lee *

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-742, South Korea

Received 13 April 1999; received in revised form 26 July 1999; accepted 21 October 1999

Abstract

Resin-transfer molding (RTM) is a process in which thermosetting resin is injected into a mold cavity pre-loaded with a porous

brous preform. For parts with small thickness, the mold-lling process can be modeled as two-dimensional by neglecting the

resin ow in the thickness direction. However thicker parts require extensive resin ow through the thickness and thus the three-

dimensional eect in the resin ow must be considered. In this study, numerical simulations of three-dimensional mold lling during

RTM were performed. The governing dierential equations were discretized by using the control volume nite element method

(CVFEM). The CVFEM technique was employed bacause of its simplicity in handling the moving boundary problems. The tem-

perature and the degree of cure were also calculated. In order to evaluate the validity of the numerical results, they were compared

with exact solutions for simple geometries, and close agreement was observed. Experiments were also performed. To check the

three-dimensional resin front location as a function of time inside the preform, an optical ber was used as a sensing element. The

agreements between the experimental data and the numerical results were found to be satisfactory. Numerical calculations for

complicated geometries were also performed to illustrate the eectiveness of the computer code developed in this study. # 2000

Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Resin-transfer molding (RTM); Finite-element analysis (FEA); Permeability

1. Introduction

Resin-transfer molding (RTM) is a process in which

thermosetting resin is injected into a preheated mold.

After the ber preform is completely wetted out by the

resin, the curing process follows (Fig. 1).

In RTM, the injection pressure, temperature of the

mold, permeability of the ber mat and resin viscosity

are the major processing variables. In general, higher

injection pressure and mold temperature and lower resin

viscosity shortens the manufacturing cycle time. How-

ever, excessive injection pressure may cause deformation

of the mold and wash-out of the ber preform. An

excessively high mold temperature may induce pre-

mature resin gelation and cause short shot. All of the

process variables are interrelated and have eects on the

mechanical properties of the products. It is therefore

essential to predict the eect of the process variables in

order to optimize the conditions.

In simulating the RTM process, the prediction of the

moving boundary is a major concern. Coulter and

Gu c eri [1] have performed numerical simulations using

the nite-dierence method and boundary tted coor-

dinates, while Chan and Hwang [2] used the nite-ele-

ment method. Um and Lee [3] and Yoo et al. [4]

adopted the boundary-element method for mold-lling

simulation. In solving moving boundary problems using

the FDM or FEM, as the resin-ow front advances, the

calculation domain should be redened and the numer-

ical mesh regenerated. The regeneration of the mesh

requires large calculation time as the calculation domain

becomes complicated. Among numerical techniques, the

control volume nite element method (CVFEM) is that

a set of equations is formed for nodal control volumes

and solved as if they are nite elements. As a xed grid

system is employed in CVFEM, there is no need for the

regeneration of the mesh and the simulation for com-

plex geometry can be done rapidly and eectively.

Bruschke and Advani [5] obtained reasonable results for

isothermal resin ow by FE/CV method to predict ll-

ing patterns for complex shell-like molds. Lin et al. [6]

0266-3538/00/$ - see front matter # 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

PI I : S0266- 3538( 99) 00160- 8

Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +82-2-880-7122; fax: 82-2-883-0179.

E-mail address: wilee@snu.ac.kr (W.I. Lee).

used CVFEM in considering heat transfer and chemical

reaction problems. Kang [7] simulated the mold-lling

process including the temperature and the curing eect.

Most of the previous works were done for thin parts,

where the resin ow is two-dimensional. However,

thicker products with more complex geometry require

extensive ow in the thickness direction. Temperature

and degree of cure also vary signicantly through the

thickness. Young [8] simulated RTM process three-

dimensionally using CVFEM to predict the ow-front

locations during the lling process and Phelan [9]

adopted FEM to solve the governing equation set and

simulated RTM mold-lling process including runner

distribution systems, shell geometries and fully three-

dimensional ows. Also Varma et al. [10] and Lam et al.

[11] suggested the governing equations and the numer-

ical methods for RTM analysis which were applicable to

full three-dimensional analysis.

In this study, an attempt was made to develop a com-

puter code which can simulate the three-dimensional

RTM mold-lling process, including the temperature

and the curing eects. In order to validate the developed

computer code experimentally, the ow-front location

inside the thick preform should be monitored during the

lling process. The resin-front locations were observed

using optical-ber sensors. In order to perform numer-

ical simulation, three-dimensional permeability must be

known. The permeability of the ber preform was mea-

sured also using optical-ber sensors.

2. Problem statements

Consider an RTM mold with an arbitrary three-

dimensional geometry. The mold is loaded with ber

preform with anisotropic permeability. The mold is

thick so that the resin ow through the thickness must

be considered. Resin is injected at specied locations on the

mold surface. Either the injection pressure or the injection

ow rate is given as a function of time. The mold may

be preheated to facilitate the resin ow. The pre-loaded

ber mat, therefore, can be assumed to be heated at the

same temperature. The temperature and degree of cure

of the resin are considered to be maintained constant at

the injection gates. Air vents are ventilated to the

atmosphere. They are assumed to be closed when the

resin front reaches. The resin-front location and the

pressure eld during the lling process are to be pre-

dicted. Also, the temperature distribution and the

degree of resin curing are to be estimated.

3. Mathematical modeling and governing equations

In the RTM mold-lling process, thermosetting resin

ows through the porous ber preform. Therefore, the

ow can be assumed to follow Darcy's law [12]

V

=

1

j

K [ ]VP (I)

where V

osity of the resin, K [ [ is the permeability tensor of the

ber preform and P is the pressure.

As the resin is incompressible, mass conservation can

be stated as

V V

= 0 (P)

The energy equation for the resin can be written as

follows [6]:

,

r

c

pr

oT

r

ot

,

r

c

pr

V

VT

r

= Vk

r

VT

r

h

v

T

f

T

r

_ _

G

.

(Q)

where ,. c

p

. k are the density, the specic heat and the

thermal conductivity of the resin, respectively. h

v

is the

convection heat transfer coecient between the ber

and the resin, T is the temperature, and is the porosity

of the ber preform. The subscripts r and f represent

resin and ber, respectively. is the viscous dissipation

rates which comes from the heat generated by the resin

ow through the pore. G

.

is the heat generated by the

resin curing reaction and is expressed as [13]

G

.

= H k

1

k

2

o

m

1

( ) 1 o ( )

m

2

(R)

The energy equation for the ber preform can be

written as follows [6]:

1 ( ),

f

c

pf

oT

f

ot

= 1 ( )Vk

f

VT

f

h

v

T

r

T

f

_ _

(S)

Mass conservation of chemical species represents the

conversion between monomer and polymer [6]

oo

ot

V

.

Vo = m

.

(T)

Fig. 1. Resin transfer modeling process.

962 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

where o is the degree of cure and m

.

is the chemical

reaction rate of the resin, which can be related to the

degree of cure as [13]

m

.

= k

1

k

2

o

m

1

( ) 1 o ( )

m

2

(U)

Constitutive equations can be obtained in the forms

to be used in the CVFEM technique, if the control

volume method is applied to the governing equations

[14]. First, the mass conservation equation [Eq. (2)] is

integrated for control volume and the divergence theo-

rem is applied,

_

g..

V V

du =

_

g..

V

dS = 0 (V)

Eqs. (1) and (8) are combined to yield the following

expression:

_

g..

1

j

K [ ]VP n

dS = 0 (W)

The energy equations of resin and ber [Eqs. (3)(5)]

can be joined into a single equation [Eq. (10)] by the

assumption that the temperature of the resin and the

ber become identical as the resin impregnates the dry

ber [6].

,c

p

oT

ot

,

r

c

pr

V

VT = VkVT G

.

(IH)

where ,c

p

and k are expressed as

,c

p

= ,

r

c

pr

1 ( ),

f

c

pf

k = k

r

1 ( )k

f

(II)

Integration of the combined energy equation [Eq.

(10)] for control volume with the aid of Green's theorem

yields

o

ot

_

g..

,c

p

Tdu

_

g..

,

r

c

pr

TV

dS =

_

g..

kVT n

dS

_

g..

H k

1

k

2

o

m

1

( ) 1 o ( )

m

2

du

(IP)

Likewise, the chemical species mass conservation

[Eqs. (6) and (7)] can be expressed as

o

ot

_

g..

odu

_

g..

o

dS

=

_

g..

k

1

k

2

o

m

2

( ) 1 o ( )

m

2

du

(IQ)

The boundary conditions can be stated as follows.

At the injection gate:

P

inlet

= P

0

or u

inlet

= u

0

T

inlet

= T

0

o

inlet

= o

0

(IR)

At the mold wall:

oP

on

wll

= 0

T

mold

= T

m

(IS)

On the ow front region:

P

front

= 0

k

oT

on

front

= 1 ( ),

f

c

pf

u

n

T

f0

T

_ _

(IT)

Solutions to Eqs. (12) and (13) along with the boundary

conditions [Eqs. (14)(16)] yield the resin front location

as well as pressure, temperature and degree of cure dis-

tributions as functions of time.

4. Numerical simulation

The RTM mold lling process is a moving boundary

problem, which means that the computation domain

changes continuously with time. Therefore, those con-

ventional methods such as FEM and FDM require

mesh regeneration at every time step to describe the

change of the calculation domain. The control volume

method saves much trouble in mesh regeneration when

combined with the volume of uid (VOF) [15] which is

suggested by Tadmor and Broyer [1618]. In order to

solve the governing equations, the CVFEM was used.

Discretization of the three-dimensional domain was

done with a tetrahedron nite element (see Fig. 3). A

tetrahedron element consists of four sub-volumes divi-

ded by four control surfaces. Each control volume is

composed of sub-volumes surrounding a node. For

example, as shown in Fig. 3, the control volume i is

made up of sub-volumes of every element which sur-

rounds the node i. In the CVFEM, the net ux of mass,

momentum, energy and chemical species through the

control surfaces is conserved rigorously within the cor-

responding control volume. In this method, the whole

domain is divided into a xed grid system and a scalar

parameter f is introduced for each cell to represent the

ratio of occupied volume to the total volume. As the

ow front advances, all of the control volumes can be

classied into three categories as (see Fig. 2):

f = 1: main ow region

0 - f - 1: ow front region

f = 0: empty region

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 963

The ow front lies over the control volumes of which

the lled fraction is between 0 and 1. If f reaches a cer-

tain value, say 0.5, the ll time at the moment is recor-

ded as the ll time of the control volume. After the

entire mold is lled, the lling patterns of the ow front

can be obtained by interpolating the recorded ll times

of the respective control volume [19]. This method

enables us ecient advancement of the ow front which

satises the mass conservation more strictly.

In the energy equation [Eq. (10)] and the chemical

species equation [Eq. (6)], the transient terms are inclu-

ded. For time integration of these equations, an explicit

method was used [20]. The necessary condition for sta-

bility can be expressed as Eq. (17) based upon the Von

Neuman stability analysis [20].

t4

2o

x

x

2

2o

y

y

2

2o

z

z

2

z

_ _

1

(IU)

where a

i

, represents the diusion coecient, u

. v

. w

increment and x. y. z are the characteristic nite-

element lengths.

On the ow-front region, the lled fraction f is upda-

ted at each time step as the ow front advances. There-

fore, the lled fraction f is included in the dierential

term of time. On that region, Eq. (12) can be written in

matrix form as

C

d fT t ( ) ( )

dt

= DT t ( ) f E

S

t ( )

df

dt

E

F

(IV)

where T(t) represents the temperature, DT t ( ) is the

energy convection by resin ow, and f E

S

t ( ) is the heat

released by resin curing.

df

dt

E

F

is the energy absorbed

from the pre-heated ber mat. The energy convection

DT t ( ) into the newly added calculation domain is to

be calculated using the information from the previous

time step (explicit scheme) and the upstream (upwind

scheme). Therefore, the energy convection by resin ow,

the exothermal heat by resin curing and the energy of

the pre-heated ber mat are to be added to the energy of

the newly dened ow-front domain one time step later.

This can be written as

C

n

f

n1

T

n1

= f

n

C

n

tD

n

( )T

n

tf

n

E

n

S

t f

n1

f

n

_ _

E

F

(IW)

where the superscript n represents the nth time step.

The numerical simulation procedure is illustrated in

the ow chart (Fig. 4). Eqs. (12) and (13) include the

generation term which is a function of the temperature

and degree of cure. Therefore, Eqs. (9), (l2) and (13) are

all coupled and must be satised simultaneously. First,

the viscosity calculated based upon the temperature and

the degree of cure at the previous time step is used to

solve Eq. (9). Then the volumetric mass ux through

each control surface can be obtained. Eqs. (12) and (13)

are solved using this volumetric mass ux already

obtained and the resin viscosity is updated for the next

Fig. 3. The shape of the element used in numerical simulation. An

element is divided into four sub-volumes by the control surfaces.

Control volume i consists of sub-volumes from every element which

surrounds node i.

Fig. 2. Illustration of the ow front advancing technique. According

to the lled fraction f, the entire calculation domain can be divided

into three categories. In this gure, solid and dashed lines represent

element and control volume boundaries, respectively (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 4. Flow chart of the numerical simulation procedure.

964 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

time step. Then, the ow front advances until any con-

trol volume on the ow-front region is completely lled

using the volumetric mass ux and the calculation

domain is redened. In solving Eqs. (12) and (13), a

large truncation error might appear because the con-

vection term is dominant compared to the diusion

term. Also, because the Eqs. (12) and (13) are coupled,

some iteration is required to solve these two equations.

In order to settle this situation, the time step used for

the integration of Eqs. (12) and (13) should be smaller

than that for the ow-front advancement (see Fig. 4)

and hence Eqs. (12) and (13) could be linearized by an

explicit scheme. After the temperature and the degree of

cure at the current time step is calculated, the resin

viscosity is updated. This procedure is repeated until the

entire cavity is completely lled.

Resin viscosity depends on the temperature and the

degree of cure as [21]:

j = j

o

exp

E

RT

ko

_ _

(PH)

The cure model adopted in this study is as follows

[22]:

d[

dt

= k

1

k

2

[

m

1

( ) 1 [ ( )

m

2

(PI)

where [ represents the isothermal degree of cure and k

1

,

k

2

are expressed as

k

1

= A

1

exp

E

1

RT

_ _

. k

2

= A

2

exp

E

2

RT

_ _

(PP)

From the isothermal degree of cure [, the degree of

cure o can be obtained.

o =

H

[

H

= C

1

T C

2

T - T

g

( ). H

= H

T5T

g

( ) (PQ)

where H

dened as the total amount of heat generated from time

t = 0 until no evidence is found of further reactions at a

constant temperature and can be obtained from iso-

thermal scanning measurement. The ultimate heat of

reaction H

dynamic scanning till the completion of the chemical

reactions. The material properties used in this numerical

simulation were taken from the experimental results of

Kang et al. [7]. The resin was vinylester (825 and 280 by

National Korea, Inc. with the mixing ratio of 7:3). The

values of the parameters required for Eqs. (20)(23) are

shown in Table 1. Other properties of the resin and ber

reinforcement used in this study are listed in Table 2.

5. Verication of the numerical results

The validity of the numerical code was veried with

simple problems for which the exact solutions were known.

In order to verify the pressure eld, a steady resin ow

through a cube where resin was injected from the front

surface at constant pressure P

o

= 1 ( ) is considered. On

the other ve surfaces, the pressure was maintained at

zero. In this case, the momentum equation [Eq. (1)] and

the continuity equation [Eq. (2)] can be combined to

yield

Table 1

Curve t variables for the viscosity and cure model [see Eqs. (20)(23)]

[7]

Viscosity model Cure model

j

5.41910

5

Pa s A

1

1.248310

10

min

1

E

R

3636.45 K A

2

2.043310

11

min

1

k 26.89

E1

R

100048.4 K

E2

R

9505.58 K

m

1

0.693

m

2

1.327

T

C

100

C

C

1

0.02639

C

2

8.8466

Table 2

Properties of resin and ber mat used in RTM simulation [7]

Resin Fiber

,

r

1030 kg/m

3

,

f

2540 kg/m

3

c

pr

1900 J/kg K c

pf

835 J/kg K

k

r

0.193 W/m K k

f

0.76 W/m K

K

xx

110

9

m

2

K

yy

110

9

m

2

K

zz

110

9

m

2

Fig. 5. Three-dimensional pressure distribution along the centre line for

a cube. Comparison between the analytical solution and the numerical

results for three-dimensional steady ow. Pressure of unity is applied

on one surface while the pressure is kept zero on other surfaces.

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 965

V

K [ ]

j

VP

_ _

= 0 (PR)

If the permeability is isotropic and the viscosity is

constants Eq. (24) can be simplied as

V

2

P = 0 (PS)

Eq. (25) can be solved for a cube of unit size and the

solution can be found elsewhere as [23]:

P =

16

o

i=0

o

j=0

sinh 1 x ( ) sin 2i 1 ( )y [ ] sin 2j 1 ( )z [ ]

2i 1 ( ) 2j 1 ( ) sinh 1 ( )

_ _

(PT)

The exact solution was compared with the numerical

solution in Fig. 5 along the center line. Both solutions

agreed well, as shown in the gure.

In order to validate the ow front advancement

scheme, a one-dimensional advancement of the resin

front was considered. The resin was injected at one sur-

face of the cube and air was ventilated at the opposite

surface. In this case, the resin ow becomes one-dimen-

sional. The exact solution for the ow front location can

be obtained as [24]

x =

2KP

0

j

t

_

(PU)

Fig. 6. Verication of the ow front advancement scheme. One-

dimensional ow in the cartesian coordinate system.

Fig. 7. Principle of the optical ber sensor. Before the resin reaches

the sensing spot, light can be transmitted through the optical ber but

leaks as soon as the resin reaches the spot.

Fig. 8. Typical signal from the optical ber sensor. The intensity of

the infrared light decreases sharply as the resin front reaches the sen-

sing bare spots on an optical ber.

Table 3

Refractive indices of air, resin and glass for l = 632.8 nm

Material Refractive

index

Mismatch with

glass ber (%)

Air 1.000293 35.6

Water 1.3307 14.4

Polyester resin 1.5556 0.13

Glass ber (silica core) 1.55365 0

Fig. 9. Experimental setup for the three-dimensional RTM mold ll-

ing process.

966 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

where P

0

is the injection pressure, j is the viscosity, K is the

permeability, x is the location of the owfront and t is time.

In Fig. 6, the exact solution was compared with the numer-

ical result. As can be seen, the agreement is very close.

6. Experiments

In order to further verify the numerical results, experi-

ments were performed. There are several experimental

techniques to nd out the resin front location during

the lling process such as ow visualization techni-

ques [2527], the dielectric method [29], and a

method using thermocouples [30]. In these techniques,

sensors are mainly installed on the mold surface. As a

consequence, resin ow only along the mold wall can be

monitored and hence these methods are inappropriate

to nd out the ow front location inside the ber pre-

form. In this study, the optical ber was used to moni-

tor the ow of the resin inside the thick ber preform

[28].

6.1. Principle of the ber-optic sensor

Optical ber consists of core and cladding. The core is

the path of light and the cladding is the mechanical

protection from outside impact. In this study, optical

bers with silica core and polymer cladding were used.

First, a very shod section of polymer cladding was

removed from the optical ber by burning or chemical

etching. The length of the bare spot is as short as 1 mm.

Three or four bare spots were made consecutively along

a single ber, each bare spot serving as a sensor. The

optical ber thus prepared was positioned inside the

ber preform. An infrared light signal was transmitted

through the optical ber from one end and the intensity

of the light signal was monitored on the other end. Before

the resin reaches the bare spots along the optical-ber

sensor, a relatively large light signal can be transmitted

through the optical ber (see Fig. 7). However, as the

resin reaches the bare spots, the light leaks through

these bare spots because the refractive indices of the

resin and the silica are close (Table 3) [31]. Therefore,

the intensity of the transmitted light signal drops sig-

nicantly and the arrival of the resin front can be

detected. A typical signal from the sensor is demon-

strated in Fig. 8.

Fig. 10. The locations of sensing planes where optical ber sensors

were installed, between stacked ber preform inside the mold. The

inlet gate was placed at the centre of the bottom surface and the posi-

tions of the sensing spots are given in Table 4.

Fig. 11. Installation of the optical ber sensors on each plane shown

in Fig. 10. The positions of the sensing spots are given in Table 4.

Table 4

The locations of the optical ber sensors embedded inside the ber preform for the measurement of the three-dimensional ow front location (see

Figs. 911)

Sensor 1 Sensor 2 Sensor 3 Sensor 4

x (mm) y (mm) x (mm) y (mm) x (mm) y (mm) x (mm) y (mm)

1st plane (z = 0.0 mm) 23.3 0.0 0.0 23.3 23.3 0.0 0.0 23.3

46.6 0.0 0.0 46.6 46.6 0.0 0.0 46.6

70.0 0.0 0.0 70.0 70.0 0.0 0.0 70.0

2nd plane (z = 10.2 mm) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

23.3 0.0 0.0 23.3

46.6 0.0 0.0 46.6

3rd plane (z = 19.6 mm) 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0

23.3 0.0 0.0 23.3

46.6 0.0 0.0 46.6

4th plane (z = 29.0 mm) 0.0 0.0

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 967

6.2. Three-dimensional permeability measurement

The three-dimensional permeability must be known

for the three-dimensional RTM mold-lling analysis.

The three-dimensional permeability was measured using

the optical-ber sensors described above.

First, the optical-ber sensors were embedded in the

ber preform at designated locations (see Figs. 10 and

11). The optical ber used in this experiment was a

multimode ber (CeramOptec, HWF 200/230/500T)

which can transmit the light of a wavelength between

0.4 and 2.4 mm. The cubic mold cavity was closed and

then resin was injected from the inlet gate at the center

of the bottom surface. As the permeability is aniso-

tropic, the shape of the resin front is known to be ellip-

soidal [28]. As the resin reached the sensor point, the

signal from the photo detector changed sharply and the

time to the sensing point was recorded. Once the times for

the resin front to reach the specic locations are measured,

the three-dimensional permeability can be estimated

from curve-tting to the following equation [28,29].

Fig. 12. Typical signals from the optical ber sensors. The voltage

outputs are obtained from photo-detector sensors after proper signal

conditioning.

Fig. 13. Dimensionless front locations along x, y and z direction versus the modied time. Experimental data are curve-tted to a line to yield the

permeability values [see Eq. (27)].

968 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

1

3

,

3

fi

1

2

,

2

fi

1

6

=

i

i = x. y. z (PV)

where ,

fi

=

r

i

r

0i

and

i

= K

i

P

0

t

jcr

2

0i

. r

i

is the resin-front loca-

tion and r

0i

is the radius of the inlet gate. P

0

is the inlet

pressure and t is the time for the resin front to reach a

specic sensor location. j is the resin viscosity and c is

the porosity of the ber preform.

The experimental setup is shown in Fig. 9. A halogen

lamp was used for the infrared light source. A photo-

transistor (Opto Electronics, ST-1KLA) was used for

the detection of the intensity of the infrared light. The

voltage signal from the photo transistor was amplied

and then recorded by a data acquisition system

(Advantech, PCL-812PG). In this study, three bare

spots per optical ber were prepared. Fig. 10 illustrates

how the optical bers were placed inside the preform.

Ten glass-ber mats were stacked between each sensing

plane. A total of 54 chopped-strand mats were laid up.

In the rst sensing plane, four optical bers were placed

in the x and y directions. Thus, there were 12 sensing

points in the rst plane. In the second and third planes,

two optical bers were installed and, in the fourth plane,

only one optical ber was used with one bare spot.

Therefore, the number of sensing points was 25 in one

experiment. The sensing point locations are shown in

Table 4 and Figs. 10 and 11.

In order to measure the pressure at the inlet gate, a

pressure transducer (Sea Systems, Model C208) was

used. The box-shape mold cavity was constructed of 30

mm thick aluminum plates. The mold was designed to

change the cavity height so that the ber-volume frac-

tion can be changed. The resin was pressurized by

compressed nitrogen and the inlet-gate pressure was

controlled by a pressure regulator.

Automobile engine oil (LG Caltex, SAE 7.5W/30,

viscosity=0.29 Pa s at 25

ability measurement. The pressure at the inlet gate was

0.142 MPa. The ber reinforcement used in this study

was a glass-ber chopped-strand mat (LG Owens-

Corning, CM450-723, 450 g/m

2

). The ber-volume

fraction was 20.9%. The inlet-gate diameter was 1.70

mm. In the chopped-strand mat, the bers are randomly

oriented, but all in the same plane. Thus the in-plane

permeability can be assumed to be isotropic and the

out-of-plane principal permeability is perpendicular to

the plane of the bers [28].

Fig. 14. Locations of the sensor points. At these locations, results of

numerical simulation and the experimental data are compared in Table 5.

Fig. 15. Three-dimensional RTM mold lling pattern at dierent

times. Result of numerical simulation to be used for the comparison

with the experimental data (see Table 5).

Table 5

Comparison between numerical simulation and experimental results

by the optical ber sensor

a

Sensing points

number

Experiment

(s)

Simulation

(s)

Error

(s)

Error

(%)

Sensor 1 Sensor 2

1 2.5 2.5 2.6 0.1 4

2 21.9 23.5 23.3 0.21.4 0.96.4

3 76.1 83.3 79.8 3.53.7 4.24.9

4 3.8 4.7 3.3 0.51.4 13.229.8

5 31.3 32.6 29.3 2.03.3 6.410.1

6 96.1 93.6 100.6 4.57.0 4.77.5

7 1.6 1.6 0.7 0.9 56.3

8 6.9 5.9 1 14.5

9 33.5 29.7 3.8 11.3

10 10.3 7 3.3 32

11 45.1 36.4 8.7 19.3

12 10.3 9.7 9.5 0.20.8 2.17.8

13 18.8 18.6 0.2 1.1

14 45.1 47.7 2.6 5.8

15 20.1 20 0.1 0.5

16 64.8 55.4 9.4 14.5

17 34.4 35.1 0.7 2

a

The locations of the sensing points are shown in Fig. 14.

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 969

Fig. 16. Results of mold lling simulation for a cubic shape. The inlet gate was located at the centre of the front surface. Pressure distributions (b),

temperature distributions (c), degree of cure distributions (d) and lling time (e) are shown at three dierent cross-sectional planes along the thick-

ness as described in (a).

970 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

Fig. 17. Results of mold lling simulation for the thick slab with a pit and a projection. The inlet gate was located at the centre of the hollow pit.

Pressure distributions (b), temperature distributions (c), degree of cure distributions (d) and lling time (e) are shown at dierent cross-sectional

planes along the y and z directions as described in (a).

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 971

Typical output from the sensor during the experiments

is shown in Fig. 12. From the voltage-output data, the

time of resin-front arrival at each sensing point can be

monitored. Based on Eq. (23), the three-dimensional

permeability was obtained (see Fig. 13). As was expec-

ted, k

xx

is identical to k

yy

, assuring that the in-plane

permeability is isotropic.

6.3. Comparison between experimental and numerical

results

It is noted that once the resin front reaches the mold

boundary, the exact solution as used in the permeability

measurement is not valid. Using the measured perme-

ability, numerical simulation was performed for the

same geometry described above. Sensor location are

shown in Fig. 14. Only a quarter is displayed in this

gure because of the symmetry of the geometry. The

sensing points 16, 7, 12 have extra experimental results

because there were two sensors at the same location.

The numerical results are displayed in Fig. 15. Com-

parisons between the two results are shown in Table 5.

The absolute error in lling time was within 9.4 s where

the time to ll the entire cavity was 100.6 s. Compara-

tively close agreements are found.

7. Practical applications of the computer code

Numerical calculations were done for four dierent

geometries to demonstrate the eectiveness of the com-

puter code developed in this study. First, a simple cubic-

shaped preform (10 cm10 cm10 cm) was lled with

an injection gate at the center of the front surface. The

total numbers of nodes and elements were 1331 and

5000, respectively. The injection pressure was 1.0 MPa

and the injection temperature was 25

C. The preform

was preheated to 70

were expected to be at the four vertices of the opposite

surface as these were the farthest points from the gate.

However, the results showed that the vent hole was

required at the center of the opposite surface. This was

because the heat transferred from the heated mold

lowered the resin viscosity near the wall and thus made

Fig. 18. Results of mold lling simulation for automobile head lamp bezel. Resin was injected at two points. Pressure distribution (a) and lling time

(b) are shown along the boundary surface.

972 S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975

the ow along the wall easier [see Fig. 16(e)]. The tem-

perature distribution is illustrated in Fig. 16(c). As can

be seen, the temperature near the wall is higher.

The second geometry considered was a thick slab (20

cm10 cm4 cm) with a pit (6 cm4 cm2 cm) and a

projection (6 cm6 cm2 cm) as illustrated in Fig. 17a.

The number of discretized cubic nite elements was

4120. Numerical results are shown in Fig. 17(b)(e). The

resin was injected at the location where the thickness

is the least and the inlet pressure was 0.7 MPa. The

temperature of the injected resin was 25

C and rose

immediately to the mold temperature 70

C after

injection, as injection was done at the thinnest part of

the cavity and the heat from the hot mold wall was

transferred well to the resin [see Figure 17(c)]. This

means that the resin viscosity was lowered and the ll-

ing time was shortened.

To check the eectiveness of this computer code fur-

ther, an automobile headlamp bezel was considered. In

this example, resin was injected at two points. As shown

in Fig. 18(b), the locations of the ``weld lines'' as well as

the air vents could be predicted using the code devel-

oped in this study. Next, the insert was replaced with a

thin hollow cavity without ber preform to allow easy

resin ow. Therefore, in place of a hole at the insert, a

thin resin membrane was formed after the molding. The

thin cavity allowed the ow resistance to be lowered,

resulting in a faster lling time compared with the case

with a hole [see Fig. 19(b)]. In the two example cases,

the inlet gate pressure was 0.7 MPa, the inlet tempera-

ture was also 25

C.

The last numerical example was molding of a

centrifugal-pump casing (Fig. 20). This complicated

geometry was discretized into 2035 nodes and 7874 ele-

ments. The resin was injected from the inlet surface

(surface gating) at 0.6 MPa. The temperature of the

resin and mold was 70

cate the expected air-vent locations where two ow

fronts met each other. These simulation results can be

used for the design of the RTM mold.

Fig. 19. Results of mold lling simulation for automobile headlamp bezel with membrane. Resin was injected at the centre of the hollow membrane.

Pressure distribution (a) and lling time (b) are shown along the boundary surface.

S.T. Lim, W.I. Lee / Composites Science and Technology 60 (2000) 961975 973

8. Conclusions

A numerical code for the RTM process was developed.

Three-dimensional analyses of resin ow were performed

including the non-isothermal eect and conversion dis-

tribution. In the simulation of the RTMprocess for thicker

parts, the necessity of three-dimensional analysis was illu-

strated by sample runs. Using optical-ber sensors, the

ow-front location was monitored and the three-dimen-

sional permeability was measured. Numerical and experi-

mental results were also compared. Close agreements were

found. Numerical simulations were done for some practical

cases to illustrate the eectiveness of the numerical code.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Turbo and Power

Machinery Research Center and the Ministry of Science

and Technology.

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