Knoxville, Tenn., Nov. 17, 2017 – The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), has facilitated a research project enabling undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) to design, build, and test composite snow sled prototypes. IACMI and the UTK students are presenting the prototype sleds – one made of carbon fiber composite, one of basalt composite, and one of glass fiber – at Ober Gatlinburg’s opening night for the 2017 – 2018 sledding season. IACMI members from across Tennessee and the United States offered the material and equipment for students to conduct the research project. IACMI members involved in this project include Mafic, Ashland Performance Materials, Huntsman, Polynt, Chomarat, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Magnum Venus Products (MVP).
The composite sleds were created through a vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) process. University of Tennessee, Knoxville students used a combination lay-up to reinforce a variety of fibers including Carbon Fiber (CF), Basalt Fiber, and Glass Fiber (GF) with resins such as vinyl ester or epoxy – an established technology process used in the race car industry. The advantage of fiber reinforced sleds over traditional plastic sleds is the higher mechanical performance and durability, in addition to weight reduction that leads to aerodynamic performance improvement.
Creating sleds with a variety of fibers allows students to gain knowledge about the characteristics of different materials; it also allows students to learn about the molding process through hands-on experiments. The industry partners supplying materials receive input on material performance in different environments and additional visibility through collaborative research opportunities.
Dr. Uday Vaidya offers the prototyping class for engineering undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where students can learn about holistic product development – from concept to part. “The students are working on comprehensive design process that involves conceptualization, sketching, CAD, finite element analysis, process simulation, material selection and optimization, prototyping and validation,” said Vaidya, IACMI’s Chief Technology Officer and the UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing. The 13 graduate and 9 undergraduate students in the class make composite sled prototypes to focus on value-added engineered products using advanced materials.
Workforce training continues to be an important goal for IACMI, and projects that facilitate hands-on learning are an impactful way to engage students and introduce them to the composites field. In 2017, IACMI supported workforce development activities for over 7,000 individuals in Tennessee through its internships, STEM outreach, technician training, and other training available to its members and partners.
IACMI’s strong membership engagement and commitment to workforce development allow opportunities for the composites workforce of tomorrow to engage in exciting research, and share their knowledge with the greater community.