PERTH, AUSTRALIA--Australian engineers have developed a technique for making affordable advanced polymer composites.

Light and strong, advanced polymer composites have 10 times the strength-to-weight ratio of most metals. However, the composites are expensive and time-consuming to manufacture. They are made at high temperatures and pressures, and it can take many hours to make one part.

A new process developed at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation could change that. Called Quickstep, the "floating mold" technique takes advantage of the ability of fluids to conduct heat and vibration.

For parts made with standard aerospace epoxy resins, the Quickstep technique can reduce production time from 24 hours to 1 hour. Even shorter production times are possible for automotive and marine composites. Operating pressures are 1 to 4 psi, compared with 60 to 200 psi for conventional composite fabrication processes.

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