GB2554476A - A method of forming a component - Google Patents

A method of forming a component Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2554476A
GB2554476A GB1702541.2A GB201702541A GB2554476A GB 2554476 A GB2554476 A GB 2554476A GB 201702541 A GB201702541 A GB 201702541A GB 2554476 A GB2554476 A GB 2554476A
Authority
GB
United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
layers
component
polymer
stack
force
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Pending
Application number
GB1702541.2A
Other versions
GB201702541D0 (en
Inventor
Loon Lee Yuk
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
SUZLON ENERGY Ltd
Original Assignee
SUZLON ENERGY Ltd
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to IN201621032262 priority Critical
Application filed by SUZLON ENERGY Ltd filed Critical SUZLON ENERGY Ltd
Publication of GB201702541D0 publication Critical patent/GB201702541D0/en
Publication of GB2554476A publication Critical patent/GB2554476A/en
Pending legal-status Critical Current

Links

Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C51/00Shaping by thermoforming, i.e. shaping sheets or sheet like preforms after heating, e.g. shaping sheets in matched moulds or by deep-drawing; Apparatus therefor
    • B29C51/14Shaping by thermoforming, i.e. shaping sheets or sheet like preforms after heating, e.g. shaping sheets in matched moulds or by deep-drawing; Apparatus therefor using multilayered preforms or sheets
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C65/00Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor
    • B29C65/02Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor by heating, with or without pressure
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C65/00Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor
    • B29C65/48Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor using adhesives, i.e. using supplementary joining material; solvent bonding
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C65/00Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor
    • B29C65/48Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor using adhesives, i.e. using supplementary joining material; solvent bonding
    • B29C65/50Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor using adhesives, i.e. using supplementary joining material; solvent bonding using adhesive tape, e.g. thermoplastic tape; using threads or the like
    • B29C65/5057Joining or sealing of preformed parts, e.g. welding of plastics materials; Apparatus therefor using adhesives, i.e. using supplementary joining material; solvent bonding using adhesive tape, e.g. thermoplastic tape; using threads or the like positioned between the surfaces to be joined
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/01General aspects dealing with the joint area or with the area to be joined
    • B29C66/02Preparation of the material, in the area to be joined, prior to joining or welding
    • B29C66/022Mechanical pre-treatments, e.g. reshaping
    • B29C66/0222Mechanical pre-treatments, e.g. reshaping without removal of material, e.g. cleaning by air blowing or using brushes
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/01General aspects dealing with the joint area or with the area to be joined
    • B29C66/02Preparation of the material, in the area to be joined, prior to joining or welding
    • B29C66/024Thermal pre-treatments
    • B29C66/0242Heating, or preheating, e.g. drying
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/01General aspects dealing with the joint area or with the area to be joined
    • B29C66/05Particular design of joint configurations
    • B29C66/10Particular design of joint configurations particular design of the joint cross-sections
    • B29C66/11Joint cross-sections comprising a single joint-segment, i.e. one of the parts to be joined comprising a single joint-segment in the joint cross-section
    • B29C66/112Single lapped joints
    • B29C66/1122Single lap to lap joints, i.e. overlap joints
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/01General aspects dealing with the joint area or with the area to be joined
    • B29C66/343Making tension-free or wrinkle-free joints
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/50General aspects of joining tubular articles; General aspects of joining long products, i.e. bars or profiled elements; General aspects of joining single elements to tubular articles, hollow articles or bars; General aspects of joining several hollow-preforms to form hollow or tubular articles
    • B29C66/51Joining tubular articles, profiled elements or bars; Joining single elements to tubular articles, hollow articles or bars; Joining several hollow-preforms to form hollow or tubular articles
    • B29C66/54Joining several hollow-preforms, e.g. half-shells, to form hollow articles, e.g. for making balls, containers; Joining several hollow-preforms, e.g. half-cylinders, to form tubular articles
    • B29C66/545Joining several hollow-preforms, e.g. half-shells, to form hollow articles, e.g. for making balls, containers; Joining several hollow-preforms, e.g. half-cylinders, to form tubular articles one hollow-preform being placed inside the other
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/70General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material
    • B29C66/73General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material characterised by the intensive physical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the optical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the extensive physical properties of the parts to be joined, by the state of the material of the parts to be joined or by the material of the parts to be joined being a thermoplastic or a thermoset
    • B29C66/737General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material characterised by the intensive physical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the optical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the extensive physical properties of the parts to be joined, by the state of the material of the parts to be joined or by the material of the parts to be joined being a thermoplastic or a thermoset characterised by the state of the material of the parts to be joined
    • B29C66/7375General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material characterised by the intensive physical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the optical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the extensive physical properties of the parts to be joined, by the state of the material of the parts to be joined or by the material of the parts to be joined being a thermoplastic or a thermoset characterised by the state of the material of the parts to be joined uncured, partially cured or fully cured
    • B29C66/73755General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material characterised by the intensive physical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the optical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the extensive physical properties of the parts to be joined, by the state of the material of the parts to be joined or by the material of the parts to be joined being a thermoplastic or a thermoset characterised by the state of the material of the parts to be joined uncured, partially cured or fully cured the to-be-joined area of at least one of the parts to be joined being fully cured, i.e. fully cross-linked, fully vulcanized
    • B29C66/73756General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts characterised by the composition, physical properties or the structure of the material of the parts to be joined; Joining with non-plastics material characterised by the intensive physical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the optical properties of the material of the parts to be joined, by the extensive physical properties of the parts to be joined, by the state of the material of the parts to be joined or by the material of the parts to be joined being a thermoplastic or a thermoset characterised by the state of the material of the parts to be joined uncured, partially cured or fully cured the to-be-joined area of at least one of the parts to be joined being fully cured, i.e. fully cross-linked, fully vulcanized the to-be-joined areas of both parts to be joined being fully cured
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/90Measuring or controlling the joining process
    • B29C66/91Measuring or controlling the joining process by measuring or controlling the temperature, the heat or the thermal flux
    • B29C66/919Measuring or controlling the joining process by measuring or controlling the temperature, the heat or the thermal flux characterised by specific temperature, heat or thermal flux values or ranges
    • B29C66/9192Measuring or controlling the joining process by measuring or controlling the temperature, the heat or the thermal flux characterised by specific temperature, heat or thermal flux values or ranges in explicit relation to another variable, e.g. temperature diagrams
    • B29C66/91921Measuring or controlling the joining process by measuring or controlling the temperature, the heat or the thermal flux characterised by specific temperature, heat or thermal flux values or ranges in explicit relation to another variable, e.g. temperature diagrams in explicit relation to another temperature, e.g. to the softening temperature or softening point, to the thermal degradation temperature or to the ambient temperature
    • B29C66/91941Measuring or controlling the joining process by measuring or controlling the temperature, the heat or the thermal flux characterised by specific temperature, heat or thermal flux values or ranges in explicit relation to another variable, e.g. temperature diagrams in explicit relation to another temperature, e.g. to the softening temperature or softening point, to the thermal degradation temperature or to the ambient temperature in explicit relation to Tg, i.e. the glass transition temperature, of the material of one of the parts to be joined
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29CSHAPING OR JOINING OF PLASTICS; SHAPING OF MATERIAL IN A PLASTIC STATE, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR; AFTER-TREATMENT OF THE SHAPED PRODUCTS, e.g. REPAIRING
    • B29C69/00Combinations of shaping techniques not provided for in a single one of main groups B29C39/00 - B29C67/00, e.g. associations of moulding and joining techniques; Apparatus therefore
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
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    • B29C70/00Shaping composites, i.e. plastics material comprising reinforcements, fillers or preformed parts, e.g. inserts
    • B29C70/04Shaping composites, i.e. plastics material comprising reinforcements, fillers or preformed parts, e.g. inserts comprising reinforcements only, e.g. self-reinforcing plastics
    • B29C70/28Shaping operations therefor
    • B29C70/40Shaping or impregnating by compression not applied
    • B29C70/42Shaping or impregnating by compression not applied for producing articles of definite length, i.e. discrete articles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B29WORKING OF PLASTICS; WORKING OF SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE IN GENERAL
    • B29DPRODUCING PARTICULAR ARTICLES FROM PLASTICS OR FROM SUBSTANCES IN A PLASTIC STATE
    • B29D99/00Subject matter not provided for in other groups of this subclass
    • B29D99/0025Producing blades or the like, e.g. blades for turbines, propellers, or wings
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • B32B27/00Layered products comprising a layer of synthetic resin
    • B32B27/06Layered products comprising a layer of synthetic resin as the main or only constituent of a layer, which is next to another layer of the same or of a different material
    • B32B27/08Layered products comprising a layer of synthetic resin as the main or only constituent of a layer, which is next to another layer of the same or of a different material of synthetic resin
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    • B29C66/00General aspects of processes or apparatus for joining preformed parts
    • B29C66/40General aspects of joining substantially flat articles, e.g. plates, sheets or web-like materials; Making flat seams in tubular or hollow articles; Joining single elements to substantially flat surfaces
    • B29C66/41Joining substantially flat articles ; Making flat seams in tubular or hollow articles
    • B29C66/45Joining of substantially the whole surface of the articles
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • FMECHANICAL ENGINEERING; LIGHTING; HEATING; WEAPONS; BLASTING
    • F03MACHINES OR ENGINES FOR LIQUIDS; WIND, SPRING, OR WEIGHT MOTORS; PRODUCING MECHANICAL POWER OR A REACTIVE PROPULSIVE THRUST, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • F03DWIND MOTORS
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    • Y02E10/721
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Abstract

A method of forming a component comprising: (a) stacking a plurality of layers of polymer onto one another (S2); (b) heating the stack of layers to the glass transition temperature range of the polymer (S4); (c) applying a force to the stack of layers over a period of time while within the glass transition temperature range so as to deform the layer (S6); and (d) bonding the plurality of layers within the deformed stack to one another to form the component (s8). Each layers of polymer is preferably a polymer matrix composite, comprising thermoset or high performance thermoplastic; and may be a pultruded plank. A veil sheet is preferably interleaved between each pair of adjacent layers during stacking. The stack of layers may be forced against a mould; wherein the force may be applied by a vacuum, a compressible solid or a pressurised incompressible liquid. After shaping, the plurality of layers are bonded to one another using a suitable adhesive or resin, e.g. by a resin infusion process. A component formed using the method is also disclosed wherein the component is preferably a wind turbine component such as a leading edge panel, a trailing edge panel, a suction surface panel, a pressure surface panel, a spar cap, a shear web, a blade foot fairing, or a blade tip moulding.

Description

(54) Title of the Invention: A method of forming a component Abstract Title: Method of forming a component (57) A method of forming a component comprising: (a) stacking a plurality of layers of polymer onto one another (S2); (b) heating the stack of layers to the glass transition temperature range of the polymer (S4); (c) applying a force to the stack of layers over a period of time while within the glass transition temperature range so as to deform the layer (S6); and (d) bonding the plurality of layers within the deformed stack to one another to form the component (s8). Each layers of polymer is preferably a polymer matrix composite, comprising thermoset or high performance thermoplastic; and may be a pultruded plank. A veil sheet is preferably interleaved between each pair of adjacent layers during stacking. The stack of layers may be forced against a mould; wherein the force may be applied by a vacuum, a compressible solid or a pressurised incompressible liquid. After shaping, the plurality of layers are bonded to one another using a suitable adhesive or resin, e.g. by a resin infusion process. A component formed using the method is also disclosed wherein the component is preferably a wind turbine component such as a leading edge panel, a trailing edge panel, a suction surface panel, a pressure surface panel, a spar cap, a shear web, a blade foot fairing, or a blade tip moulding.

FIG. 1

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FIG. 1 a, c, Vfree

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ί t start jg end >T

FIG. 2

2/3

FIG. 3

FIG. 4

FIG. 5 β3

V\G·6

AO ?\G·7

A METHOD OF FORMING A COMPONENT

The invention relates to a method of forming a component and particularly, but not exclusively, to a method of forming a component part of a blade of a wind turbine (also known as an aerodynamically-powered generator or, simply, an aerogenerator).

Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly popular due to the environmental impact and cost of fossil fuels and nuclear power. In particular, wind energy production is growing rapidly and has the potential to easily satisfy worldwide energy demand. Of the many types and configurations of aerogenerators, most are typically horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs). Such turbines comprise a rotor located at the top of a tower. The rotor comprises a plurality of blades each having an aerofoil profile. The airflow over the blades cause the rotor to rotate, thereby generating electricity .

Larger blades produce more energy and are more efficient compared to shorter blades and so there has been a drive to use blades of ever increasing length. However, increasing the length of the blades also increases their weight. Consequently, blades are now being manufactured from composite materials, such as Polymer Matrix Composites (PMCs), which are lightweight, but exhibit high strength and stiffness.

For example, the blades may comprise a reinforcing spar formed from a stack of pultruded PMC planks which are bonded to one another and then shaped to comply with the external aerodynamic profiles. However, it has been found that it is difficult to achieve the required shape when working with such materials and so the resulting profile of the blade may not be fully optimised in order to maximise efficiency.

It is therefore desirable to provide a method of forming a component which provides an accurate and lasting shape combined with great strength and stiffness.

Accordingly, in accordance with an aspect of the invention there is provided a method of forming a component comprising: (a) stacking a plurality of layers of polymer onto one another; (b) heating the stack of layers to the glass transition temperature range of the polymer; (c) applying a force to the stack of layers over a period of time while within the glass transition temperature range so as to deform the layer; and (c) bonding the plurality of layers within the deformed stack to one another to form the component.

Each layer of polymer may be a polymer matrix composite.

The polymer may be a thermoset polymer.

The polymer may be a high performance engineering polymer. The process works whether or not it contains an embedded second-phase material, such as flakes, fibres, particles, etc. to reinforce it for further strength and/or stiffness and/or thermal and/or viscoelastic (i.e. creep or relaxation) resistance; and crucially, regardless of whether the polymer is thermoplastic or thermoset, irrespective of whether a partially crosslinked (some free bonds remaining) or a fully crosslinked thermoset (fully cured).

Each layer may be a pultruded plank.

A veil sheet may be interleaved between each pair of adjacent layers.

The veil sheet may be interleaved during the step of stacking the plurality of layers.

The stack of layers may be forced against a mould.

The force may be applied by a vacuum.

The force may be applied by a compressible solid, such as foam or sand.

The force may be applied by a pressurised incompressible liquid, such as oil or water.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention there is provided a component formed using the method described above.

The component may be a component of a wind turbine. For example, the component may be a leading edge panel, a trailing edge panel, a suction surface panel, a pressure surface panel, a spar cap, a shear web, a blade root fairing, or a blade tip moulding.

For a better understanding of the invention, and to show more clearly how it may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, in which:3

Figure 1 is a flowchart of a method of forming a component according to an embodiment of the invention;

Figure 2 is a graph of temperature against thermal expansion a, specific heat capacity c and free volume Vfree;

Figure 3 is a schematic side view showing a stack of layers for forming a component in a first stage of the method of forming;

Figure 4 is a schematic side view showing the stack of layers in a second stage of the method of forming;

Figure 5 is a schematic side view showing the stack of layers after joining to form the component;

Figure 6 is a schematic side view showing a component which is formed using a plurality of layers assembled with intermediate layers; and

Figure 7 is an enlarged view of a portion of the component showing the layer structure.

Figure 1 shows a flowchart of a method of forming a component according to an embodiment of the invention. In step S2, a plurality of layers 2 of a polymer are stacked onto one another. For example, each layer 2 may be a planar pultruded plank of polymer matrix composite (PMC), particularly a thermoset polymer such as an epoxy matrix with turbostratic (high strength) or graphitic (high stiffness) carbon fibres. Each layer 2 may be pre-cured, fully-hardened and fully chemically crosslinked. Alternatively, all or some layers may be partly cured and only partially crosslinked. In step S4, the stack of layers 2 is heated to a temperature which lies within the glass transition temperature range of the polymer. The layers 2 used to form the stack need not have identical compositions, but should at least have glass transition temperature ranges which overlap with one another such that all layers within the stack can be within their glass transition temperature ranges simultaneously. That is, to maximise the success of an all-in-one-stack thermoforming process, the Tg ranges of the involved materials must be reasonably matched.

As shown in Figure 2, the glass transition temperature range is a quantifiable range of temperatures in which the coefficient of thermal expansion a, specific heat capacity c and free volume Vfree change in a broadly smooth ‘step’ manner, as a characteristic identifiable physical, thermodynamic and chemical property of the substance. Essentially, the additional heat allows sufficient physical ‘wriggle room’ - a minute extra space at the size level of the entangled molecular chain - to permit the soft i.e. residual stress-free repositioning of the molecules. All polymers have a glass transition temperature range, clearly defining its observable change in thermal expansion, specific heat capacity, free volume and viscoelastic behaviours, which varies with the specific polymer and its processing before it is released and shipped to a materials user, such as a manufacturer of aerogenerators, aircraft, automotives, buses, trains or maritime transport systems.

As shown in Figure 2, a single glass transition temperature, Tg, may be derived for the material using a number of methods, such as differential scanning calorimetry (DSC heat flow based), dynamic mechanical analysis (DMA - stress/strain response based), thermal mechanical analysis (TMA - coefficient of expansion based), or dynamic thermal mechanical analysis (DTMA - multiple indicator based), Such measurements are typically centred within the range with the onset (start) of the transition shown in Figure 2 occurring approximately 35°C below the defined Tg value and the end of the transition occurring approximately 35°C above the Tg value.

The polymer properties a, c, Vfree all change abruptly across a similar temperature range. Conventionally, this range and thus the Tg measurement is reliably determined using DSC techniques. For example, the specific branded epoxy material used has a Tg value measured using DSC of 107°C. As described below, the method is therefore performed at 80°C which lies within the glass transition temperature range (based on the 35°C figure given above). Advantageously, the temperature is selected to be at the lower end of the glass transition temperature range (i.e. below the observed Tg value) so as to avoid chemical degradation, minimise energy usage, and based on the other parameters used during the method (i.e. time/duration, force).

As shown in Figure 3, a mould 4 may be used to shape the stack of layers 2 while it is heated to within the glass transition temperature range. At step S6 of the method, a force 6 is applied to the layer so as to deform the layer 2. Specifically, as shown in Figure 4, the stack of layer 2 is forced against the mould 4 so that it conforms to the curvature of the mould 4. The force 6 may be applied by a weight, which may form another half of the mould 4, or through suction applied via the mould 4 or through a vacuum bag arrangement which draws the layer 2 against the mould 4, or through positive pressure exerted by a pumped in gas (e.g. air) or liquid (like water or oil), a mechanical spring or compressible material like foam or sand pushing an exerting force on the polymer workpiece. Where a gas or a liquid is used to exert the shaping force, the process may be performed using a pre-heated fluid (gas or liquid) so as to impart additional heat to maintain a constant forming temperature.

The force 6 may be applied prior to the layers 2 reaching the glass transition temperature range or only once the layers 2 are at the correct temperature. The mould 4 itself may comprise heating elements which heat the layers 2 to the glass transition temperature range. The heating elements may be embedded below the surface of the mould 4. Alternatively, the mould 4 may be positioned within a heating vessel, such as a thermal oven or autoclave, or subjected to microwave energy indirect heating methods using radio frequency beams projected through the mould and absorbed in the stacked materials. An insulating blanket, which may be formed by a layer of glass wool, may be laid over the stack of layers 2 in order to retain and homogenise the applied heat.

The stack of layers 2 may be soaked for a period of time with the force 6 applied and the temperature maintained within the glass transition temperature range.

For the epoxy thermoset matrix example described above, the stack of layers 2 may be heated to 80°C which lies within the material’s glass transition temperature range shown in Figure 2. A soak time (i.e. the amount of time that the material requires once it reaches the desired temperature) of 4 hours may be used with an applied force of 1 atmosphere.

The temperature and force conditions are suitable for harnessing the viscoelastic properties of the material to enable a ‘hard’ resetting of the solid polymer’s shape, while maintaining the polymer material in the solid phase throughout the process. As a result, upon cooling down to ambient conditions the shape of the stack of layers 2 is retained and does not revert towards its original planar shape. The viscoelastic properties and accumulated tiny molecular movements (including minute entanglement displacements) of the polymer allow for permanent creep and subsequent relaxation to relieve the internal strains and stresses of the new profile. As a result, the process is a stress-relieving procedure with the layers 2 exhibiting no stresses or strains in the new profile. There is a variable range of temperatures, durations and forces specific to each thermoforming candidate material, whereby cooler temperatures will within reasonable limits still form the material at longer durations or higher forces. The size of the variable range depends on the specific material chemistry and shaping geometry.

This heating regimen generates the final effect in two broadly observable parts, separated by their chronological order. During the initial forming stage, polymer ‘creep’ is exploited to deform it relatively slowly to the required final shape. The optimal minimal processing energy consumption required will help dictate precisely how slowly or rapidly and this will depend on the specific polymer characteristics, the initial dimensions and the depth/severity of shaping required. For example, a thicker pultruded plank will necessarily require more energy and thus time to ‘slip’ its internal nano- and micro- scale molecular chain structure to achieve a given external radius of curvature or prescribed angle of bending. During the second of the observable chronological parts, the force, temperature and time are maintained - significantly, beyond the instant the final shape is achieved by creep in the initial first stage - to exploit polymer ‘relaxation’, whereby the internal stresses and residual strains within the material itself are permitted to dwell over a period of prescribed time to zero via the continued internal molecular readjustment and inter-atomic ‘slipping’ at the ends of the chains and in between them, driven by the same continued heat (temperature) and pressure (applied force).

As all polymers - whether thermoplastics or thermosets - have a glass transition temperature range and thus a free volume characteristic, the invention works for all plastics, including high-temperature high-modulus relatively expensive and exotic thermoplastics like PEEK (polyetehertherketone), PAI (polyamideimide), PPS (polyphenylsulphone), PS (polysulphone), PEI (polyetherimide), PUM/PUMA (polyurethanemethylacrylate), etc..

Thus, the invention allows for the radical external shaping of completely solid high performance engineering polymer-containing materials - even fully-crosslinked fullycured thermosets - with no or negligible risk of ‘springback’ as observed in other method as a result of residual internal stresses which cause the product to return to its undesirable initial shape at service temperatures after a period of time, and generates undesirable locked-in residual internal stresses leading to nucleation of flaws and the growth of cracks during operating service at cooler ambient temperatures.

The forming method allows, for the very first time in composites and polymer engineering, the elimination or substantial reduction of unintended built-in residual stresses and strains compared against other less optimal forming methods. Such stresses and strains may be generated by: thermal expansion/contraction due to temperature changes in the same phase of (solid) of material during processing; and moulding directly from curing a liquid polymer or resin to a stable solid due to shrinkage stresses from the liquid-solid phase change from the molten or unreacted fluid polymer constituents.

This inherent stress relief is permanent in its nature, and a useful by-product is reduced susceptibility to stress crazing in harsh chemical or irradiation environments (e.g. ultraviolet, sunlight, gases, ozone, ionising radiation, liquids, seawater, sewage, acids, solvents, etc.). The stress relief may also increase mechanical toughness and strength to shocks, impacts, dropping, etc. The process eliminates the issue of ‘springback’ in polymers or polymer matrix composite components of all kinds, whereby a conventionally stress-formed component returns towards its original shape, eg flat laminated pultrusions cold-bent then bonded to ‘fix’ their unstable forced-shape with infused resin. As a result, it is not necessary for manufacturers to engage in long and expensive experimental trials or computer simulations to determine the necessary over-shaping (‘over-forming’) required to produce a component of the correct shape and dimensions following this springback.

In step S8, the plurality of layers are bonded to one another using a suitable adhesive or resin to form a component 8 of desired thickness, as shown in Figure 5. For example, the layers may be joined using sheet film adhesive, or toughened (antifatigue) adhesive paste, or via a matrix resin infusion procedure. A matrix resin infusion procedure allows the layers 2 to be bonded to one another without first unstacking the layers 2.

Figures 6 and 7 show an alternative arrangement where sheets 10 of a veil material are interleaved between adjacent pairs of layers 2 during step S2 prior to heating and deforming. Alternatively, the sheets 10 may be inserted between the layers 2 after they have been deformed and prior to bonding in step S8. The method described above ensures that each layer 2 has precisely the same shape. As a result, a consistent and almost negligible gap is generated between the layers 2. This enables the veil sheet 10 to be inserted between the layers 2. The veil sheets 10 acts as spacers between the layers 2. The veil sheet 10 is a thin, porous and flexible layer which may be formed from an engineering felt or random orientated fibre tissue, i.e. a non-woven textile, comprising short fine fibres that toughen, reinforce and homogenise the adhesive or infused matrix resin bondline, by virtue of fibre capillary surface-tension action. The veil sheets 10 therefore improve fracture toughness and fatigue strength. In particular, crack initiation at the tip of any impending flaw is delayed, due to the physical toughening mechanisms of the embedded fibres such as crack fibre bridging, fibre pullout, etc. Once crack growth begins, the same toughening mechanisms delay the crack speed and increase the intrinsic crack opening load so that fast fracture is avoided. The veil sheets 10 also improve wetting of the adhesive or resin across the layers 2 and improve the uniformity of the bondlines. For example, for many epoxy structural adhesives, the bondline thickness is approximately 0.3mm.

The veil sheets 10 have been shown to improve both the fatigue properties of the component 8 (repetitive cyclic loading), as well as the maximum static properties. They may therefore be used in applications where bondline inter-layer toughness, high static strength and/or high fatigue strength is required.

The component 8 may be used within a blade of a wind turbine. In particular, the component 8 may be used as a structural reinforcement for the blade. In particular, the component 8 may form a structural spar cap which is located within the aerofoil crosssection and extends along part of or all of the blade span. The component may also form a structural shear web within the aerofoil cross-section which joins the upper and lower spar caps together, and extends along part of or all of the blade span. The component may also form a ‘closing out’ panel for the upper suction and/or lower pressure skins of the blade aerofoil cross-section, a leading edge panel for the forward skins of the blade aerofoil cross-section, or a trailing edge panel for the rear skins of the blade aerofoil cross-section.

Although the specific example of an epoxy matrix with turbostratic carbon has been described above, it will be appreciated that the method may be used with any polymer matrix material, with any kind of continuous fibre, short fibre, particulate, powder, flake, or filler reinforcing phase. As examples, the polymer may be a thermosetting epoxy, polyester, vinyl ester, polyurethane, bismaleimide, or cyanate ester which is combined with any fibre, such as para-aramid (for high stiffness, toughness and strength, ultra low mass), graphitic carbon (for high stiffness), turbostratic carbon (for high strength), E glass (low cost), S, T or R glass (stronger and stiffer than E glass), quartz, or ultra high molecular weight polyolefin (low mass). The method may also be employed with unreinforced thermosetting polymers. In addition, the method may be used with highperformance thermoplastics, characterised by ultra-high melting points and rigid ring/cyclic- shaped molecular groups, such as PEEK, PPS, PS, PEI, PAI, which have similar mechanical properties (particularly stiffness and strength) to thermosetting polymers and can be heated to the glass transition temperature range without the layers inadvertently adhering to one another, by virtue of the veil interleaves, functioning together as spacers and as infusion substrates for subsequent resin bonding consolidation of the planks.

Although the invention has been described with reference to blades of a wind turbine, such as a horizontal axis wind turbine, it will be appreciated that it may be used in other applications. In particular, the invention may be used to form components of vertical axis wind turbines and in any other application.

Although it has been described that the invention takes a planar layer and forms it into a contoured layer, it will be appreciated that it may also be used to form contoured layers, either changing their contours or straightening to form a planar layer. The method may therefore utilise a pair of flat platens, rather than contoured moulds.

Claims (15)

1. A method of forming a component comprising:
(a) stacking a plurality of layers of polymer onto one another;
(b) heating the stack of layers to the glass transition temperature range of the polymer;
(c) applying a force to the stack of layers over a period of time while within the glass transition temperature range so as to deform the layer; and (d) bonding the plurality of layers within the deformed stack to one another to form the component.
2. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein each layer of polymer is a polymer matrix composite.
3. A method as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein the polymer is a thermoset polymer.
4. A method as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein the polymer is a high-performance thermoplastic.
5. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein each layer is a pultruded plank.
6. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein a veil sheet is interleaved between each pair of adjacent layers.
7. A method as claimed in claim 6, wherein the veil sheet is interleaved during the step of stacking the plurality of layers.
8. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the stack of layers is forced against a mould.
9. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the force is applied by a vacuum.
10. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the force is applied by a compressible solid.
11. A method as claimed in any preceding claim, wherein the force is applied by a pressurised incompressible liquid.
12. A method substantially as described herein with reference to and as shown in the 5 accompanying drawings.
13. A component formed using the method as claimed in any preceding claim.
14. A component as claimed in claim 13, wherein the component is a component of a 10 wind turbine.
15. A component as claimed in claim 14, wherein the component is a leading edge panel, a trailing edge panel, a suction surface panel, a pressure surface panel, a spar cap, a shear web, a blade root fairing, or a blade tip moulding.
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GB1702541.2A 2016-09-21 2017-02-16 A method of forming a component Pending GB2554476A (en)

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DE102018009332A1 (en) * 2018-11-28 2020-05-28 Senvion Gmbh Rotor blade with belts with deformable pultrudates

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GB2168002A (en) * 1984-12-06 1986-06-11 Rolls Royce Composite material manufacture
DE102005050925A1 (en) * 2005-10-21 2007-04-26 Universität Rostock Thermal forming of thermosetting, semi-finished preforms involves heating preform to temperature above glass transition for forming operation
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GB2168002A (en) * 1984-12-06 1986-06-11 Rolls Royce Composite material manufacture
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EP2441571A1 (en) * 2010-10-12 2012-04-18 General Electric Company Composite components and processes therefor
US20140175709A1 (en) * 2012-12-20 2014-06-26 Cytec Industries Inc. Method for forming shaped preform
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