TRB Lightweight Structures has begun manufacturing its own prepreg material to improve cost and lead times for its composite parts. To date, the company has produced and shipped 25,000 parts using this new proprietary, rapid-cure prepreg technology.
In late 2020, the company announced that it had developed a new production process to generate continuous fiber, thermoset composite parts at high volume for automotive markets. The company, which has a location in Richmond, Kentucky, built its own prepreg machines and is currently developing a family of resins for component manufacturing, including resins for rapid cure, FST (UL94-V0) and high temperature applications.
By developing its own prepreg, the company is decreasing costs and lead times by reducing the number of vendors involved and eliminating minimum order quantities, while improving manufacturing efficiency. In addition, it has eliminated the normal freeze-thaw cycle and condensation concerns of prepreg because the prepreg is made in-house.
“By making our own prepreg, we are able to tune the material selection to precisely match what is needed for each customer,” said Andrew Dugmore, vice president of business development at TRB. “We can create an optimal mix of fabric weight, colored surface finish and resin properties, as well as incorporating additional materials — such as EMI shielding and electrical and thermal insulation — during the lay-up process.”
TRB uses robotic production throughout the process. After the lay-up process is complete, the material is placed in a TRB-designed and built precision press system that stamps and cures the component in a fraction of the time usually required for thermoset material.
TRB Lightweight Structures was formed in 1954 and has a team of more than 130 workers across its three locations.