UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thermal modeling validation techniques for thermoset polymer matrix composites Slesinger, Nathan Avery


Process modeling is becoming a widely-accepted tool to reduce the time, cost, and risk in producing increasingly large and complicated composite structures. Process modeling reduces the need for physical parts, as it is not practical or economical to design and fabricate large composite structures using a trial-and-error approach. The foundation of the composite manufacturing process, and thus of process models, is the thermal history of the composite part during cure. Improperly curing the composite part will compromise its mechanical properties. Consequently, proper validation of the thermal model input parameters is critical, since the simulation output depends on the accuracy of the input. However, there are no standard methods to validate thermal process model input parameters. In this work, repeatable and robust methods were developed to isolate and validate the conductive heat transfer, thermochemical, and convective heat transfer sub-models. By validating the sub-models, the uncertainty of the complete thermal simulation was significantly reduced. Conductive and thermochemical material models were validated by comparing the thermal response of a material surrounded by rubber bricks to a 1-D simulation of the same materials. Four composite prepreg systems and their respective material models were tested, with agreement ranging from excellent (errors less than 1.0 °C) to poor (errors greater than 5.0 °C). Calorimetery, visual monitoring, and CFD were used to characterize the convective heat transfer environment inside the UBC autoclave. The validation methods were also used to better understand the capabilities and limitations of the autoclave. Local variations in airflow patterns and heat transfer coefficients showed that heat transfer can be highly variable in an individual piece of equipment. Simple procedures for characterization of an autoclave or oven were demonstrated. The developed methods can be used individually, or in combination, to validate thermal models and reduce uncertainties associated with the cure of composites. With further refinement, the demonstrated methods can be developed into validation standards for thermal modeling of composite materials.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International