Optimal curing for thermoset matrix composites: Thermochemical and consolidation considerations

Min Li, Charles L. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A design sensitivity method is used to find optimal autoclave temperature and pressure histories for curing of thermoset-matrix composite laminates. The method uses a finite element simulation of the heat transfer, curing reaction, and consolidation in the laminate. Analytical sensitivities, based on the direct differentiation method, are used within the finite element simulation to find the design sensitivities, i.e., the derivatives of the objective function and the constraints with respect to the design variables. Standard gradient-based optimization techniques are then used to systematically improve the design, until an optimal process design is reached. In this study the objective is to minimize the total time of the cure cycle, while the constraints include a maximum temperature in the laminate (to avoid thermal degradation) and a maximum deviation of the final fiber volume fraction from its target value (to achieve proper consolidation). The simulations of curing process are performed for EPON 862/W epoxy under a conventional cure cycle, for both thin and thick parts. Time-optimal cure cycles are found using the optimization program. Simulations of fast-curing cycles are also examined. The optimal cycles are similar in form to conventional cure cycles, but give substantially shorter cure times. The entire scheme works automatically and efficiently, simultaneously adjusting multiple design variables at each iteration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)739-757
Number of pages19
JournalPolymer Composites
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Materials Chemistry


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