How to fabricate a composite fiber shaft in the US eliminating supply chain logistic and lead time issues while meeting targeted cost range.
Deliver a solution using a combination of high levels of automation with lower cost materials and manufacturing methods.
Used automated fiber preforms, lower cost epoxy resins, and resin transfer molding (RTM) to make high value composite shafts
The customer needed flexibility in their supply chain but was unsure if the shafts could be made in the US while still hitting their target price range. In this trial demonstration a single cavity mold was used to verify quality shafts could be made. In order to meet the targeted cost range, significant automation, a 50 cavity mold, and a quick curing resin and manufacturing method would need to be deployed.
Both a high end composite shaft with demanding performance requirements related to tensile strength, flexure, and impact resistance and an entry level composite shaft with lower performance requirements were made. Single layer custom fiber braided sleevings were used along with quick curing industrial grade epoxy and RTM. The selections kept labor to a minimum in order to be able to compete with overseas production using multiple layers of hand applied prepreg utilizing low cost labor.
The higher end composite shaft could be made within the targeted price range, but the single layer preform did not achieve the performance metrics achieved using multiple layers of prepreg. The entry level shaft met performance metrics using a single layer preform but the price was expected to be considerably higher than the overseas manufactured shaft. The increase amount is expected to be $7 to $8 for the entry level shaft’s cost. The market question is will customers pay $15 to $20 more to buy the product with a composite shaft labeled Made in the USA versus a “Made Overseas” sticker.
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