RepairClave from HEATCON offers a lower cost alternative to autoclave processing, provides portability, ease of use.
Autoclaves are used commonly in the aerospace industry for curing composite materials during the manufacture and repair of complex parts. However, the equipment is expensive and many companies without autoclaves must turn away customers. 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 traditional autoclaves.
“The use and structural complexity of composites in the manufacturing of newer aircraft has increased dramatically in the past few years,” sayd Eric Casterline, president of Seattle, WA-based HEATCON, which has specialized in the production of heat management equipment used in curing composites for aerospace applications for more than 30 years. “Often when composite parts on these airplanes and helicopters need to be manufactured or repaired, technicians must use expensive autoclave curing processes in order to achieve a sound structure.”
While the repair of many composite structures 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 50psi or higher.
“The patented, easy-to-use RepairClave provides aerospace facilities with the capability to perform these higher-pressure repairs at a much lower price than that of a traditional autoclave,” states 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.
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 says. “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. In addition, some aerospace experts consider autoclaves to be overkill for most repair scenarios, but very appropriate for the RepairClave.”
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 says.