UCI Rocket Project - Composite Winder



The continuous filament winding process was developed in the 1970's through joint efforts of Danish inventor Frede Hilmar Drostholm, who invented an advancing mandrel machine, and norwegian inventor Agnar Gilbu, who envisioned the continuous filament winding process for fiberglass pipes and tanks. Composite filament winding is a fabrication technique that reinforces rocket tubes and pressure vessels by winding filaments on the outer surface of a rotating mandrel. Patterns are created depending on the velocity and the angle during the application and are designed to withstand different forms of forces. Products manufactured by the filament winding process have an excellent strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratio. Therefore this technology has been utilized in high-pressure vessels for fuel tanks of liquid rockets, solid rocket motors, pipe systems for fluid transportation, and shell structures for aerospace applications. The technology’s ability to create lightweight and tough materials has made the fabrication technique desirable in many applications. Continuous single or multiple filament thread is fed through a fiber delivery system to the filament winding machine where the fibers are wound onto the mandrel in a predetermined pattern. Filaments are bathed with thermoset resin such as epoxy and polyester before application to the mandrel for desired stiffness, strength, and weight.

Goal and Objectives: 

With additional complications brought by the prevailing Covid-19 environment, lead times for custom winding have substantially increased causing delays in the project timeline. To solve this issue, the goal of this project is to create an automatic composite filament winding device that can successfully wind filaments on the outer surface of a rotating mandrel which will allow efficient and fast distribution of various sizes of tubes.  Patterns, angles, speed of rack and pinion, and rotational speed of mandrels must be adjustable and controlled; the system must be capable of applying composite filaments in various directions and rates with mandrel diameters from 3 inches to 11 inches. The objective of this project is to develop a system that can control the application of composite fibers onto metal mandrels and pressure vessels. The system must withstand a rotation metal tank weight of 20lbs, and filaments are bathed with thermoset resin such as epoxy and polyester before application to the mandrel for desired stiffness, strength, and weight. Components must be commercially available or must be easily manufactured.

Technical Details and More Information:

To briefly explain how our system functions, unlike the previous solution of hand winding filaments, our machine uses an automated composite manufacturing process with a servo that wraps continuous fiber reinforcements around the outer surface of a rotating mandrel. Our system consists of 4 pulley systems, a dip resin bath, a rack and pinion system, a nip roller, and a manual tensioning system to safely function. There were some limits with a given budget of $800, so our main focus was to create a simple but efficient method to fully create the systems. By adding weight to the fiber source and utilizing a nip roller, tension is maintained throughout the process. The filament starts from the source and then goes through the 4 pulley system with a resin bath under it which fully covers the filament with epoxy. Then the filament goes through the nip roller and rack and pinion system which will then travel through the carriage, winding the rotating mandrel.

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