SEATTLE, WA, Nov. 6 - Autoclaves are used in the aerospace industry for curing composite materials during the manufacture and repair of complex parts. But the equipment is expensive. HEATCON Composite Systems now offers a portable autoclave known as the RepairClave, which provides a less expensive alternative for curing many parts formally reserved for more expensive traditional autoclaves.
"The complexity of composites as used in the manufacturing of newer aircraft has increased dramatically in the past few years," said Eric Casterline, president of Seattle-based HEATCON, which has specialized in the production of heat management equipment used in curing composites for aerospace applications for more than 30 years. "When composite parts are manufactured or repaired, technicians often use expensive autoclave curing processes."
Although composite repair may typically be performed using only hot bonders, the vacuum-generated pressure may not reach a sufficient level for more complex repairs, which could require 50 psi or higher, requiring autoclave processing.
"The patented, easy-to-use RepairClave gives aerospace facilities the capability to perform these higher-pressure repairs at a much lower price than that of a traditional autoclave," said Tom Lane, managing director of HEATCON Composite Systems (UK).
With the absence of inert gases typically required for the pressure application process, the RepairClave provides a safer, more environmentally friendly alternative at a fraction of the cost of an autoclave.
Heatcon's portable autoclave combines heat blanket technology with one pressure zone and multiple heater control zones to provide even air pressure and localized heat.
"Instead of heating the entire autoclave pressure vessel in order to achieve the temperature needed for curing a component, localized heat is applied by the same silicone rubber heat blankets used in the hot bonder repair," Casterline said. "Only the actual repair area is heated, and since the volume of air inside the RepairClave does not reach cure temperatures, the use of an inert gas is not required."
According to Lane, "The RepairClave keeps things as simple as possible while still meeting required composite material curing specifications."
HEATCON designed the RepairClave to be portable to appeal to aerospace firms with expanding operations, and to have added flexibility in shop floor layouts.
"RepairClaves are currently being used by helicopter manufacturers, universities, aerospace companies and others. It is a great option for customers who are looking to reduce costs and increase process efficiencies," Casterline said.
About HEATCON Composite Systems
HEATCON Composite Systems is a leader in composite repair equipment, repair material sales and technical services for the composite repair industry. HEATCON's customers include the commercial and military aerospace, automobile, marine and wind energy industries. HEATCON is considered the foremost supplier of repair products including hot bonders, blankets and supporting accessories. HEATCON is also a global source for training at http://heatcontraining.com/, and has developed basic composite courses consistent with worldwide standards.