Reconfigurable Vacuum Screen

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Modern manufacturing and prototype operations have created a demand for manufacturing equipment that can be readily produced and assembled for producing prototype and short-run components by various methods. Current techniques can produce these prototypes rapidly and at a reduced cost; however, quality and tool life are sacrificed in return, creating a need for a suitable apparatus and technique that can deliver the desired qualities.

Purdue University researchers have developed a molding process and apparatus that while quick and cost-effective produces high quality parts. This device is a vacuum screen that draws objects toward the surface where many little pins are situated. Once the pins make contact with the part that needs to be molded, the device holds the pins in place for the process making an exact mold.
Different methods can be used to secure the pin locations, including phase change material with low melting points, stranded material that can easily form when compressed, and a cam-shaped rod that locks against the pins when rotated. The reconfigurable vacuum screen can be used for different manufacturing processes, such as preforms of short fiber-reinforced composite shell structures and vacuum-formed plastic sheets made by placing a softened plastic sheet onto the screen. The formed sheets can then be used as molds in a resin transfer molding process.

Advantages:
-High levels of control and flexibility
-Produces high quality parts while being cost-effective

Potential Applications:
-Materials
-Manufacturing
Apr 11, 2008
Utility Patent
United States
7,997,891
Aug 16, 2011

Apr 14, 2008
PCT-Patent
WO
(None)
(None)

Apr 12, 2007
Provisional-Patent
United States
(None)
(None)
Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization
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