It’s hoped that the £150,000 loom will take the composites team in Sheffield into whole new unexplored territories.
In the past, team members have been limited to using commercially available woven reinforcing materials, now, they will be able to design and weave their own material. The new capability means the Centre will be able to push the boundaries of processes like Resin Transfer Moulding, where components are made by injecting resin into a mould into which dry fibre has been laid down.
The centres researchers have been studying how resin flows through fabrics made from carbon fibre and found the resin flow through the fabric isn’t symmetrical, despite the weave pattern being perfectly symmetrical. They believe this may be a result of slightly differing yarn tensions within the fabric.
Now they hope to increase their knowledge by experimenting with different tensions for the warp – the long continuous threads and the weft – the thread that is fed across the loom between the warp threads to create the woven material.
If we can control warp and weft tension we might be able to influence resin flow. We also want to push the machine to the limit of its capabilities. For example, it isn’t designed to produce three dimensional structures, but we are hoping to create structures like pockets and flaps.
If the researchers are successful, they could be able to weave materials that could be opened up to form a series of boxes or a honeycomb structure that would give the completed composite component additional strength.