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Four-year EngD scholarship with the National Composites Centre: Development of Out-of-Autoclave manufacturing processes for large-scale components

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  • Full or part time
    Prof IK Partridge
    Dr K Potter
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

This project is concerned with developing the understanding and improving the methods of controlling the process for manufacturing large-scale composite components by Out of Autoclave (OoA) methodologies.

Sectors like aerospace, oil & gas and renewable energy keep demanding access to the well known benefits of composite materials for the manufacturing of larger structures. The quality control required on such components would dictate the use of prepreg methodologies, however, their sheer size, occasionally exceeding 50m in length, makes prepregging unsuitable due to the prohibitive cost and complexity of suitably scaled autoclaves. Market leading OEMs are therefore investing heavily in the development of OoA manufacturing processes which would allow delivery of parts with equivalent quality compared to the prepregged counterpart, without the need to invest in extra-large autoclaves.

Such a potential has been recognised by the National Composites Centre (NCC) who has committed funding substantial equipment and infrastructural investments, including the installation of a pilot plant for the automated deposition of fibrous reinforcement for the production of composite wings up to 20m in length. Despite the significant amount of research in this field, scaling up and accurately controlling OoA processes from feature- to full-scale still needs to be thoroughly explored. Currently, manufacturing strategies involving OoA methods are defined empirically and therefore further understanding of the interactions between material properties and processing conditions is required to move towards more reliable and predictable processing.

The optimisation of processing parameters through the material deposition, resin impregnation and consolidation phases promises tighter control over component variations in thickness, fibre volume fraction, fibre wash, wetting of fibres and the overall quality of complex components.

The ultimate goal of this project is to establish and explore fully the capabilities of the automated dry fibre deposition pilot plant as well as the impregnation and curing facilities due to be installed in the Centre over the next few months. This is expected to be done through understanding of the fundamentals behind the setting, controlling, modelling and analytical processing of all parameters, to optimise manufacturing rate and reduce part variation.

There is a need for validated numerical simulations to help defining the processing parameters required to produce consistently high-quality parts; this project is envisaged to produce critical experimental data required for calibrating and validating such models, with the objective of delivering a more robust and predictable manufacturing process.

Within the first 12 months, the EngD candidate is expected to:
• Carry out a comprehensive critical literature review on the relevant topics;
• Acquire familiarity with the fibre deposition and resin impregnation systems available at the NCC, understanding the fundamentals, potential and limitations of the technologies;
• Define fully the project scope and objectives;
• Provide detailed project schedule and planning for the whole project;
• Identify the critical high-level parameters to investigate and define a D.O.E. to assess their effects on the part quality.

PLEASE NOTE: Applications are considered as soon as they are received, and the position will be allocated as soon as a suitable candidate is found.

Project start date: As soon as possible

Candidate requirements:
An upper second-class degree (or equivalent qualification) in an appropriate discipline.

How to apply: If you are interested in applying for this EngD project please send your CV and a covering letter to the IDC at
[email protected]

About the IDC and the EngD programme:
For further information about the IDC and the EngD programme please visit:

Funding Notes

Stipend: £20k p.a.
Standard EPSRC studentship eligibility criteria apply:

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