The purpose of this research was to scientifically validate potential cost-saving measures for production of large area additively manufactured tooling for vacuum infusion of composites. These cost saving measures included using a hybrid additive/subtractive manufacturing system to fabricate the mold, requiring lower capital cost and creating shorter lead times. Fiberglass reinforcement was used instead of carbon in the mold material. The validation was done by designing and fabricating a mold for a custom test artifact and analyzing the surface geometry over the course of multiple infusions until tool failure.After printing and machining, the mold required a sealer in order to maintain vacuum integrity. The mold was able to produce 10 parts successfully before the sealed tool surface began to tangibly roughen, resulting in increased difficulty of demolding and a rougher surface finish. After the 14th infusion, the part required destructive force to be removed from the mold. The surface geometry remained consistent within ±0.5 mm of the design over the course of the infusions, and no significant trends in tool wear were observed during this time. In order to quantify the change in roughness, profilometry measurements were taken on the finished mold, and the measured area roughness value SA changed from 0.293 μm to 2.27 μm over the course of the infusions.Based on these results, it was concluded that an increase in surface adhesion is the principal mode of tool failure over the life of these tools. In addition, it was concluded that the minimum tool life for this combination of mold making methods and materials is 14 parts, as this result was obtained under an extreme case in abrasive part geometry and materials for vacuum infusion processing. Thus, this combination of methods and materials is suitable for prototyping of composite parts or short production runs.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





additive, manufacturing, composite, tooling, mold, LAAM, BAAM, hybrid



Included in

Engineering Commons