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Book Review: Liquid Moulding Technologies

One of the main barriers to the widespread use of composites is an efficient mass-production process. Traditional manufacturing techniques such as hand layup are slow and labor intensive, and even such processes as filament winding are only suitable to relatively simple geometries.

Liquid molding processes, such as resin transfer molding (RTM) and structural reaction injection molding (SRIM), have the potential to produce the tens and even hundreds of thousands of parts per year required by many industries.

If you are at all interested in these processes, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of Liquid Moulding Technologies. This is one of the best books on a manufacturing process I have read. In fact, I recommend it to anyone writing a book on a similar subject, as an example of how such a book should be written.

Liquid Moulding Technologies covers everything you need to know about liquid composite molding (LCM). It starts with an introduction to composite processing in general, showing where LCM fits into the entire hierarchy of processing methods.

Coverage then shifts to LCM in particluar. With many books, I often find myself lost because the authors assume some pre-knowledge of the processes and especially the equipment. That's not the case here: a brief overview of the different LCM techniques is presented early on, with more details later in the book as appropriate.

The chapters on resins and reinforcements will be of interest to any composite professional. Although the focus is on materials suitable for LCM, the discussion can apply to any process. I found the description of polyester systems to be particularly good.

The heart of the book, though, are the details of the LCM processes. The authors cover everything from preform design to process modelling and control. Each chapter contains a good mix of theory and practical knowledge.

The ultimate goal in LCM is to pump a resin through a reinforcement as rapidly as possible with a minimum of voids and a quick turnaround time. Achieving a good part requires knowledge of resin transport through a preform, cure kinetics, and mold design. Each of these topics is covered in its own chapter and tied together in the section on process modelling.

If the book has any weakness, it is the extensive use of forward referencing. This is probably unavoidable in an interdisciplinary topic such as this one. The authors ease the burden by providing brief discussions of topics covered later in the book, even if this does introduce some redundancy.

In addition to the practical knowledge mixed in with the theoretical discussions, the book ends with four chapters which focus on implementation of the processes. Some unique subjects include health, safety, and recycling issues. Particularly interesting is the chapter on cost modelling, including a case study of an automobile component.

If anything, this book may be a bit dangerous: after reading it, I almost believe I could start up an RTM operation. I know you can't fully learn manufacturing from a book, but I'm ready to get started. If I run into trouble, the extensive bibliographies should point me to the appropriate help.

In my first article on this site, I presented my list of Essential Reference Books. At the end of that article, I stated that I was looking for a good book on manufacturing. If the scope of Liquid Moulding Technologies wasn't limited to just a few processes, it would make that list.

Details: Liquid Moulding Technologies, by C.D. Rudd, A.C. Long, K.N. Kendall, and C.G.E. Mangin, published by Woodhead Publishing and SAE International, 1997, ISBN 1-85573-220-3 (Woodhead), ISBN 0-7680-0016-5 (SAE).
1. Introduction to liquid composite moulding; 2. Process fundamentals; 3. Resin systems; 4. Reinforcement materials; 5. Processing equipment; 6. Preform design and manufacture; 7. Materials characterisation; 8. Process modelling; 9. Non-isothermal RTM; 10. Process monitoring and control; 11. Mould design; 12. Implementation issues; 13. Technical cost analysis applied to LCM; Supplier information; Glossary

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