A resin-transfer-molding (RTM) process has been devised for fabricating a matrix/graphite-cloth composite panel that serves as tool face for manufacturing other composite panels. Heretofore, RTM has generally been confined to resins with viscosities low enough that they can readily flow through interstices of cloth. The present process makes it possible to use a high-temperature, more-viscous resin required for the tool face. First, a release layer and then a graphite cloth are laid on a foam pattern that has the desired contour. A spring with an inside diameter of 3/8 in. (˜9.5 mm) is placed along the long dimension of the pattern to act as a conduit for the resin. Springs with an inside diameter of 1/4 in. (˜6.4 mm) are run off the larger lengthwise spring for distributing the resin over the tool face. A glass cloth is laid on top to act as breather. The whole layup is vacuum-bagged. Resin is mixed and made to flow under vacuum assistance to infiltrate the layup through the springs. The whole process takes less than a day, and the exposure of personnel to resin vapors is minimized.
This work was done by Mike Fowler of Johnson Space Center and Edward Ehlers, David Brainard, and Charles Kellermann of ROTHE JV. For further information, contact the Johnson Commercial Technology Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23104