With its autoclave now installed, the University of Missouri-Rolla is ready to help aerospace businesses produce intricate prototypes and sub-scale, but complex, composite parts.
“The autoclave complements the existing composite manufacturing facilities at UMR, including pultrusion, filament winding, compression molding, injection molding and vacuum infusion processes,” says Dr. K. Chandrashekhara, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UMR.
Autoclaves, the most widely used method of producing high-quality composites in the aerospace industry, have heated chambers that are pressured by nitrogen or other inert gases that are used to cure the parts.
UMR’s small autoclave can create intricate parts up to 3 feet wide and 5.5 feet long, providing aerospace companies a timely and cost-effective alternative to using their own larger machines. The autoclave, installed at the Missouri Enterprise Business Assistance Center in Rolla, was donated to UMR by Boeing in 2004. A grant from UMR’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing Technology, funded by Air Force Research Laboratory, paid for the autoclave’s refurbishment.
“This autoclave came from Seattle, where it was used in Boeing’s commercial airplane business,” explains Dr. Robert Mitchell, dean of the UMR School of Engineering. “Boeing leaders suggested that UMR needed equipment this size if we were going to be able to help them and their suppliers with new developments in their industry. Of course this will be very useful in many manufacturing situations. I look forward to seeing one of our student design teams making the world’s best gizmo for a future competition.”