NetComposites
3M

Toroidal Test Tank Delivers Better Resistance

23 October 2009

San Diego Composites has successfully developed a lightweight composite toroidal pressurant tank using an automated fiber winding process. This test tank was tested at SDC’s high-pressure burst facility to a failure pressure of 21.1 ksi, or 5.5% above the design pressure of 20 ksi.

According to developers, the SDC composite toroidal tank design represents a 55% weight reduction compared to the baseline metal design for the application. As part of this effort, SDC designed and fabricated an automatic fiber winding machine that improves producibility and quality of the tank by controlling the winding process parameters such as fiber tension and indexing.

SDC has also developed the various other materials and processes required to fabricate the tank, such as thin walled liners, fill tubes, EB welding, and RTM curing to make the project successful.

SDC has been working on an MDA-funded Phase II SBIR effort, overseen by Mr. Eddie Japzon, to develop lightweight composite toroidal tanks to provide coolant for next generation missile defense seekers. The program has successfully demonstrated the design, analysis, material & process development, prototype fabrication, and burst strength of a small diameter composite toroidal tank.

Program Manager Dan Jacobson believes that a key to the program’s success included SDC’s ability to work through the detailed design and analysis of the composite toroidal tank while in parallel developing the unique automated fiber winding machine.

It is thought that the automated approach used in this development resulted in a more producible and lower cost product compared to a hand-wound tank. The automated toroidal fiber winding machine is said to produce a consistent product that is more reliable and provides mission assurance to the critical hardware.

SDC say that this technology can be applied to other applications over a variety of scales, believing that this winding method can be used for geometries ranging from 4 to over 24 inches.