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 Composite Materials

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  • Boeing research: aging of carbon fiber composites
  • FAA/Lancair/Cirrus research: surface preparation of adhesively bonded joints
  • Boeing internship
  • Hi-tech, high-performance combat robot parts

STORY: After only 7.5 years, I have completed my Ph.D. at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), in the Solid Mechanics and Structures concentration of the Mechanical Engineering Department. I have contributed to a Boeing study on accelerated environmental aging effects on carbon fiber composites. For this study, I designed and machined an open hole compression (OHC) fixture that is much cheaper, smaller, and easier to use than the one currently in practice.

For my Ph.D. dissertation, I worked with the FAA, Lancair, Cirrus Design, and Boeing on a study of the surface preparation of composite structural aircraft parts for adhesive bonding.

I also held a Summer internship at Boeing's composites prototyping lab. In my lab at UCSB, with an autoclave, a huge freezer full of material, and the appropriate tools at my disposal, I could create a wide variety of composite components for my projects, including combat robots.

SPECS: In the Boeing aging study, I created a series of test panels and then machined them down into specimens. In conjunction with UCLA, I set up an elevated-temperature aging environment (an oven) and a temperature-recording system. The samples were aged up to 5000 hours, and then I compressed them to failure. Our department's mechanical test lab did not have machines with hydraulic grips large enough to hold the recommended OHC fixture, so I designed and machined a new one and proved that it produced test results equivalent to the more expensive, bulkier fixture. An added bonus of the smaller fixture is much smaller test specimens, allowing testers to either save money by making smaller samples or to cut out more specimens from their existing panels to obtain more data points.

I was on an FAA grant to study adhesively bonded joints of composite panels in General Aviation and commercial aircraft. Manufacturers Lancair and Cirrus Air sell small 1-4 passenger planes and kit planes that are made almost entirely out of composite materials and almost entirely held together by adhesive bonds. I determined the effects of different surface preparation methods on bond durability, as well as a reliable method eans of destructively testing and evaluating bonded joints. This research included the design & fabrication of a composite bonding jig, to algn & press bonding panels, and to align the hinge fixtures used for testing.

At my Boeing internship in the composites prototype lab, I had the opportunity to work with some very exotic materials. Boeing was reinforcing their carbon fiber wing structures by stitching kevlar thread through the components, giving them great damage tolerance.

I performed much of my research development using UCSB's autoclave, material donated from aerospace companies, and the department's machine shop. I had the ability to make all sorts of parts and panels out of carbon fiber, graphite, fiberglass, etc. I used these materials extensively on the Missing Link, Dr. Inferno, Slugger, Dr. Inferno Jr., Mini Inferno, and Hell on Wheels. With the amazing strength/weight and stiffness/weight ratios that composites provide over typical metals, I could devote more of a bot's weight allowance to drivetrain and weapons components.

TECH DETAILS : Read more my about my research projects.

SPONSORS: Shop facilities and research work from UCSB Mechanical & Environmental Engineering. Research grants provided by Boeing and the FAA.

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