SIMUTOOL is a follow-on project from MU-TOOL, which was funded under FP7-SME (grant agreement number 286717), and will develop a simulation platform for the manufacturing of composites through microwave (MW) heating. The simulation will include an electromagnetic field coupled with heat transfer mechanisms that take place during the production process. It will also include the process control loop which will enable the optimum design for the manufacturing process. One of the major outputs of the simulation platform will be the successful design of a ceramic matrix composite tool with a MW absorbing layer, in order to maximise the energy saving potential of the MW heating process. The project addresses the manufacturing issues of MW heating of composites which stem from the lack of understanding of the basic physics of the process (the most important item being how carbon fibres interact with the microwave field). The project will increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the MW heating of composites process to TRL 6-7 from TRL 5. This project is a three year project, sponsored by the European Commission, under H2020-FoF-2015 (grant agreement number 680569), which started in September 2015, and is due for completion in February 2019.
The main concept of SIMUTOOL is the full modelling and simulation of the MW heating process using a combination of established modelling software packages (for the physicochemical phenomena) and CAD/CAE software packages which take into account the MW oven, novel tool, interactions of microwaves with all the materials inside the oven, modelling of the feedback loop control, and optimisation of the process. The final aim is to offer a modelling and simulation toolset of the MW heating process to the composites industry that does not exist today. Such a toolset will provide a comprehensive insight into the physical and chemical phenomena that occur during the process. It will enable industries to take full advantage of the MW heating process.
- Build a process simulator for the interaction of the tool and composite material with MW energy (coupled electromagnetic/heat transfer modelling).
- Understand the process control loop in the MW oven (temperature control through MW power output).
- Design and build a ceramic matrix composite tool with a durable MW absorbing layer so that:
- The bulk of the tool is transparent to microwaves.
- Heating is directed to the composite part and not to the whole tool.
- Monitor the manufacturing process through dielectric sensors.
- Integrated simulation/production data management.
- Production of composite parts using 30% less energy compared to conventional processes.
- Integrate the MW heating process with automated fibre placement technology.
- Assess the potential economic impact of the developed technologies.