3D reinforced composites are composite structures which are reinforced in multiple directions, including the through thickness direction. This means that unlike conventional laminated composites, which are usually only reinforced in the plane of the laminate, or metallic alternatives, 3D engineered composites can exhibit varied material properties throughout a single component. For example, a component might be designed and produced to provide increased shear strength in one area and increased axial stiffness in another.
The key to 3D engineered composites is the design of the material system – the fiber and matrix materials that will be used as well as the fiber architecture, which describes the directions and relative percentages of reinforcement. By controlling all of these factors, AEC is able to engineer components that meet specific performance goals while simultaneously satisfying component cost, qualification, certification, and eventual production needs.
How do we accomplish 3D or complex structural and performance properties?
AEC uses and blends a number of technologies for this, including…
3D Woven Composites
AEC has the ability to weave composite preforms in three dimensions, effectively weaving through thickness reinforcements directly into a component during preform fabrication.
With contour weaving we can manufacture either single- or multi-layer 3D woven axisymmetric structures with contoured cross sectional profiles, with the intention that the final woven preform shape be similar to the final component shape. This reduces part production costs (because additional preform cutting, darting, or special additional forming is not needed) and improves product structural performance (because the part is continuously woven).
AEC can ‘steer’ fibers when creating single- or multi-layer 3D woven fabrics. The result is a composite structure comprised of reinforcement fibers that turn and follow the natural geometry of the part. This reduces part production costs (because additional cutting, darting, or special additional forming is not needed) and improves product structural performance (because shape is continuously woven).
Discrete Through Thickness Reinforcements
AEC can add additional
discrete through-thickness reinforcements to both 2D and 3D woven products in order to improve strength properties throughout a material or specific region of a final component.