TheOPTIMOLD system can provide real-time information of a resin/composite state e.g. Tg, degree of cure, viscosity, mixing ratio, chemical aging. The OPTIMOLD system incorporates the OPTIMOLD data acquisition unit, a sensor and PC-based software. To monitor more than one location in a single mould, multiple units can be connected in parallel through a local wired or wireless network.
OPTIMOLD data acquisition unit is based on advanced electronics allowing for the in-situ and real-time measurement of the ultra-high electrical resistance (up to 50 TOhm=5 1013 Ohm) of the cured thermoset resins in harsh environments. This electrical resistance in combination with the measured temperature and real-time calculation can provide quantitative and qualitative indicators about the state of the resin such as resin aging, minimum viscosity, gelation and end-of-cure. Comparing to dielectric systems, OPTIMOLD has been optimised for composites processing, so it is more powerful, faster and cheaper, more reliable and less vulnerable to carbon fibres and very robust at harsh environments. Last but not least it can be combined with a large range of innovative sensors which can be installed in the mould, in the die and in the feeding or the evacuation lines for RTM, LightRTM, Vacuum Infusion, Pultrusion, SMC, BMC and other processes.
Besides process development, OPTIMOLD can be used in production for online quality control, mixing ratio/quality check or identification of other deviations. For example, OPTIMOLD can clearly distinguish when mixing ratio deviates as low as 3 % so corrective actions can be taken to maintain quality and speed. For single-component resins OPTIMOLD can identify the exact state of an expired resin batch, providing the optimal path to maintain product quality. Other processing features that can be picked up by the OPTIMOLD system are the existence of additives in the resin e.g. thermoplastics or nano-size additives. The industrial use of OPTIMOLD in RTM applications has reduced cycle time up to 36% and increase production rate by 80%.
The OPTIMOLD system has been used successfully in process monitoring of microwave and UV curing processes.