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These thermoplastics have a low concentration of residual volatile solvents and are easy to use.The susceptor facesheets of the retort are inductively heated to heat the preform.
While graphite or boron fibers can be heated directly by induction, most organic matrix composites require a susceptor in or adjacent to the composite material preform to achieve the necessary heating for consolidation or forming.The shop is a safer and more pleasant environment for the press operators.In induction heating for consolidating or forming organic matrix composite materials as previously described, a thermoplastic organic matrix composite preform of PEEK or ULTEM, for example, is placed within the metal susceptor envelope (i.e., retort).It also ruined the facesheets (i.e., prohibited their reuse which added a significant cost penalty to each part fabricated with this approach). Ceramic tools cost less to fabricate than metal tools of comparable size and have less thermal mass than metal tooling, because they are unaffected by the induction field.Because the ceramic tooling is not susceptible to induction heating, it is possible to embed induction heating elements in the ceramic tooling and to heat the composite or metal retort without significantly heating the tools.The reduced thermal mass and ability to focus the heating energy permits change of the operating temperature rapidly which improves the products produced.
Finally, the shop environment is not heated as significantly from the radiation of the large thermal mass of a conventional press.Because the ceramic tools in the induction heating workcell do not heat to as high a temperature as the metal tooling of conventional, prior art presses, problems caused by different coefficients of thermal expansion between the tools and the workpiece are reduced.Furthermore, Boeing's induction heating press is energy efficient because significantly higher percentages of input energy go to heating the workpiece than occurs with conventional presses.The susceptor is heated inductively and transfers its heat principally through conduction to the preform or workpiece that, in our prior work, is sealed within the susceptor retort.Enclosed in the metal retort, the workpiece does not experience the oscillating magnetic field which instead is absorbed in the retort sheets.The tools and composite preform are placed within a press and then the tools, press, and preform are heated. Attempts have been made to reduce composite fabrication times by actively cooling the tools after forming the composite part. Prepregs were laid up in a flat sheet between aluminum susceptor facesheets.