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Automatic Platen Cooling System for Research and Education on Recyclable Thermoplastic Composites

Department of Aerospace and Astronautics








This proposal requests funds to acquire an automatic platen cooling system to enable the manufacturing of recyclable thermoplastic composites. Different from traditional thermoset composites, thermoplastic composites provide enhanced mechanical properties and better processability while also providing routes for welding and overmolding. Another important characteristic of thermoplastics is that their matrix can be easily recycled and the reinforcing fibers easily repurposed. This latter aspect is particularly important for the environment considering that the composite market in the US is expected to break the 260,000 metric ton/year in 2025. Hence, it is imperative that we find ways to recycle these materials instead of damping them in landfills as current practice. This is one of the reasons why the aerospace and automotive industries are quickly shifting their focus to thermoplastic composites. Performing research on thermoplastic composites and provide pathways to train students on their manufacturing, characterization, and analysis represents a great opportunity for the UW. However, none of the facilities on campus are equipped for the manufacturing of these materials. This proposal aims at filling this gap by the acquisition of an equipment that will give access to student and faculty to state-of-the-art technology for the manufacturing of thermoplastic composites. Composites are used for advanced aerostructures such as the Boeing 787 where they account for more than 50% in weight, advanced bridges as well as the largest wind turbines in the world. Hence, the research and educational opportunities enabled by this proposal can pave the way to training of a new generation of students educated on manufacturing "greener" and more accessible composite structures

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