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A new white paper from CompuDAS provides guidance for manufacturers of composite materials on upgrading autoclave and oven control systems.
CompuDAS says “How to Improve Quality of Composite Materials with Advanced Autoclave and Oven Controls” describes how existing curing equipment can be upgraded to meet the demanding specifications often required for high-performance composites.
“To get into the high-end markets, manufacturers have to be able to follow precise recipes for curing composite materials, and they have to provide documentation showing that they conformed to those specifications,” said Allen Roth, Vice President of CompuDAS. “With conventional process controls, that usually means that one or two operators have to monitor the cure cycle almost continuously, both to keep parameters within specified ranges and also to document the process, either by logging data at frequent intervals or using chart recorders. A single mistake can result in having to scrap an entire batch, at a loss of thousands of dollars.”
Almost any oven or autoclave that is in safe working condition can be brought up to date by installing a modern programmable control system. These systems can be set up to control all aspects of the cure cycle including heating and cooling, pressure or vacuum levels, inert atmospheres, mechanical operation, and alarm monitoring. They can monitor large numbers of sensor inputs, allowing manufacturers to mount instrumentation at many stations and to control cure cycles based on variable parameters such as leading or lagging thermocouples. The systems can store numerous cure recipes that can be called up and executed as needed.
In addition, these control systems automatically record process data and store it in computer files or databases that are protected against tampering or data loss. This secure storage meets documentation requirements that are often specified for advanced composites, and it can also help protect manufacturers from liability in the event of a part failure. Even if existing controls are sufficient, a manufacturer might still want to consider an upgrade to a new process monitor that provides this documentation capability without changing the controls.
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