Electricaly Prototype tooling
Various methods have been used to create a self-heated composite tool produced from CFOAM carbon foam.
Some companies have installed heating elements in grooves in the CFOAM before applying the composite tooling surface.
Other experiments have included passing heated water or oil under the top surface. This has the advantage of accelerated heating and cooling.
Because CFOAM is electrically conductive, TAC has been able to develop tools using the CFOAM itself as a heating element.
Through out industry, there does not seem to be a single best practice for self heating composite tooling and everyone has their special way. With this in mind, there are a wide variety of approaches to build self-heated composite tooling from CFOAM.
Additionally, electrically heated tools give the promise of out of autoclave curing without moving the tool into an oven. This would allow for very large tools to stay in place during layup and curing, eliminating the need for expensive shop aids required for moving and fixturing inside the oven. Heated tooling can provide the capability to cure parts that require extremely high temperatures for curing, in lower temperature autoclaves. This is accomplished by using the tools as the heating source and insulating the tool well to keep the temperature inside the autoclave low while keeping the tooling surface temperature high. Another unique advantage of heated tooling is the ability to design tools that heat and cool very rapidly. Since you are only heating the tool, and most times small portions of the tool close to the tooling surface, you can increase temperature on the surface very rapidly. Alternatively, you can cool this surface just as fast. CFOAM heated tools possess a unique property of having a low specific heat allowing for rapid heating and cooling.
If it is a goal for you to move toward self-heated tools, call us to discuss what might work best for you!