Composite materials have traditionally been used in high-end aerospace parts and low-end consumer parts. The reason for this separation in markets is the wide gap in technology between pre-preg materials processed in an autoclave and chop strand fiberglass blown into an open mold. Liquid composite molding has emerged as a bridge between inexpensive tooling and large, technical parts. Processes such as vacuum infusion have made it possible to utilize complex layups of reinforcement materials in an open mold style set-up, creating optimal conditions for composites to penetrate many new markets with rapid innovation. Flow simulation for liquid composite molding is often performed to assist in process optimization, and requires the permeability of the reinforcement to be characterized. For infusion under a flexible membrane, such as vacuum infusion, or for simulation of a part with non-uniform thickness, one must test the permeability at various levels of compaction. This process is time consuming and often relies on interpolation or extrapolation around a few experimental permeability measurements. To accelerate the process of permeability characterization, a small number of methodologies have been previously presented in the literature, in which the permeability may be tested at multiple fiber volume contents in a single test. Some of the methods even measure the permeability over a continuous range of thicknesses, thus requiring no later interpolation of permeability values. A novel method is presented here for the rapid measurement of permeability over a continuous range of fiber volume content, in a single unidirectional vacuum infusion flow experiment. The thickness gradient across the vacuum bag, as well as the fluid pressure at several locations in the mold, were concurrently measured to calculate the fabric compressibility. An analytical flow model, which accounts for the compressibility, is then used by iterating the fitting constant in a permeability model until the predicted flow front progression matches empirical measurement. The method is demonstrated here for two reinforcement materials: 1) a fiberglass unbalanced weave and 2) a carbon bi-ax non-crimped fabric. The standard deviation of calculated permeabilities across the multiple infusion experiments for each material and flow orientation ranged from 12.8% to 29.7%. Validation of these results was performed by comparing the resulting permeability with multiple non-continuous permeability measurement methods.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





permeability, liquid composite molding, vacuum infusion (VI), fiber volume, compressibility, flow simulation, resin infusion, out-of-autoclave



Technology Emphasis

Manufacturing Systems (MS)