Single Vacuum Bagging and Autoclave Curing System Influence on Physical and Mechanical Properties of Phenolic Composites
Industrial production of thermoset composite components involves the application of a vacuum bagging and autoclave pressure to minimize void percentage, usually to less than 5%. Phenolic resin systems generate water as a reaction byproduct via condensation reactions during curing at elevated temperatures. In this paper, vacuum bagging and simple manufactured autoclave curing systems are used for manufacturing of asbestos/phenolic composites and the effects of processing conditions on manufactured composites are investigated. The traditional single-vacuum-bag process is unable to manage the volatiles effectively, resulting in inferior laminates having voids. The autoclave process cure cycle (temperature/pressure profiles) for the selected composite system is designed to emit volatiles during curing reactions effectively and produce composites with low void contents and excellent mechanical properties. Laminate consolidation quality is characterized by optical photomicrography for the cross-sections and measurements of void content and mechanical properties. The void content of phenolic composites as opposed to other composites increases as pressure increases up to 3 bar and it is then decreased beyond it. A product of 124% lower void content, 13% higher density, 24% higher flexural strength and 27% higher flexural modulus can be fabricated in composites obtained by autoclave processing.