Solid-state processing of continuous-fiber reinforced aluminum matrix composites
Metal matrix composite (MMC) materials offer superior properties for lightweight military and civilian components. Metal alloys combined with continuous ceramic fibers provide an excellent balance of high-temperature tensile, compressive and shear properties as well as damage tolerance and energy absorption. However, the processing science and manufacturing of components, especially large, high-quality MMCs is both technologically challenging and quite costly. Most MMCs are processed using liquid routes and do not lend themselves well to the production of continuous-fiber MMCs because maintaining fiber alignment with minimal fiber damage is challenging. Traditional processes have inherent size limitations due to molds that must sustain high temperatures and pressures. Two new technologies are currently being researched, namely ultrasonic consolidation (UC) for prepreg production and induction bonding (IB) and UC for component fabrication. Both technologies allow for the manufacture of large structures as the energy is focused over a small area in a similar manner to the Automated Tow Placement (ATP) process. As with the ATP process, fiber placement can be controlled by a robotic gantry system. Our ultimate goal is to transition this new and versatile MMC process to industry to produce affordable and large-scale MMC components for a multitude of applications.