Machinability of Aerospace Tooling Materials for Composite Repairs
O'Connor, Alexander Pinpin
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Tooling used to cure composite laminates in the aerospace and automotive industries must provide a dimensionally stable geometry throughout the thermal cycle applied during the part curing process. This requires that the Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) of the tooling materials match that of the composite being cured. The traditional tooling material for production applications is a nickel alloy. Poor machinability and high material costs increase the expense of metallic tooling made from nickel alloys such as `Invar 36' or `Invar 42'. Currently, metallic tooling is unable to meet the needs of applications requiring rapid affordable tooling solutions. In applications where the tooling is not required to have the durability provided by metals, such as for small area repair, an opportunity exists for non-metallic tooling materials like graphite, carbon foams, composites, or ceramics and machinable glasses. Nevertheless, efficient machining of brittle, non-metallic materials is challenging due to low ductility, porosity, and high hardness. The machining of a layup tool comprises a large portion of the final cost. Achieving maximum process economy requires optimization of the machining process in the given tooling material. Therefore, machinability of the tooling material is a critical aspect of the overall cost of the tool. In this work, three commercially available, brittle/porous, non-metallic candidate tooling materials were selected, namely: (AAC) Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, CB1100 ceramic block and Cfoam carbon foam. Machining tests were conducted in order to evaluate the machinability of these materials using end milling. Chip formation, cutting forces, cutting tool wear, machining induced damage, surface quality and surface integrity were investigated using High Speed Steel (HSS), carbide, diamond abrasive and Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) cutting tools. Cutting forces were found to be random in magnitude, which was a result of material porosity. The abrasive nature of Cfoam produced rapid tool wear when using HSS and PCD type cutting tools. However, tool wear was not significant in AAC or CB1100 regardless of the type of cutting edge. Machining induced damage was observed in the form of macro-scale chipping and fracture in combination with micro-scale cracking. Transverse rupture test results revealed significant reductions in residual strength and damage tolerance in CB1100. In contrast, AAC and Cfoam showed no correlation between machining induced damage and a reduction in surface integrity. Cutting forces in machining were modeled for all materials. Cutting force regression models were developed based on Design of Experiment and Analysis of Variance. A mechanistic cutting force model was proposed based upon conventional end milling force models and statistical distributions of material porosity. In order to validate the model, predicted cutting forces were compared to experimental results. Predicted cutting forces agreed well with experimental measurements. Furthermore, over the range of cutting conditions tested, the proposed model was shown to have comparable predictive accuracy to empirically produced regression models; greatly reducing the number of cutting tests required to simulate cutting forces. Further, this work demonstrates a key adaptation of metallic cutting force models to brittle porous material; a vital step in the research into the machining of these materials using end milling.
- Mechanical engineering