UCalgary's new Composite Manufacturing Lab soon to be ready

August 10th, 2021

Test Materials

Dr. Joanna Wong and the Engineering Materials Lab has received 2 grants. One grant is to fund research which tackles the development of emerging technologies for commercialization. The second grant is funding new equipment, allowing Dr. Wong to set up her lab for composite materials.

Author

Liana Goodman, Joanna Wong

Editors

May Chan

Interior View of 3D printed material

Interior View of 3D Printed Carbon Fiber Lattice Structure

Dr. Joanna Wong’s Engineering Materials lab is nearing completion on renovations and equipment installation of a lab space dedicated to the manufacturing and testing of fibre-reinforced polymer composites. The new equipment will allow the lab to do cutting edge research in the field of structural composites. These materials, which include carbon fibre and fibreglass composites, are of particular interest to the aerospace sector for their high stiffness, high strength, and low density properties, and are also commonly found in high performance automotive, energy, marine, military, medical, and sport applications.

Among the new equipment is a 50 ton force vacuum compression molding machine capable of pressing virtually all polymer materials into high quality composites. Funding for the equipment was partially provided by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund in 2019 and matched by the Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism (now the Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation) in 2020. Planning for renovations started early last year.

With the renovations expected to be complete by the end of this summer, the new laboratory capabilities will be heavily utilized in Dr. Wong’s recently awarded Alberta Innovates Advance NSERC Alliance project on “Additive manufacturing of composite lattice and shell structure for lightweight applications”. The joint Advance-Alliance program awards grants to universities “who have made promising discoveries in emerging technologies priority areas [...] which could eventually lead to commercialization”. [source] The money received from Alberta Innovates and NSERC is vital for funding student research, purchasing materials and parts, as well as acquiring software licences. 

The goal of Dr. Wong’s project is to make 3D printing a viable manufacturing route for end-use components in the aerospace (and other) industries by addressing some of the current challenges in 3D printing of composite materials, including print quality, print materials, and toolpathing.

The Laboratory of Engineering Materials currently has 5 enthusiastic students working on new composite material and processing technologies: 2 PhD candidates, a MSc candidate, and 2 undergraduate students who have been awarded NSERC USRA grants for the summer. The team is planning to expand with new projects.  Check this website for opportunities to join.

Joanna Wong

I hope these projects will bring additive manufacturing towards the practicality of manufacturing end use components. I [also] want to develop new materials and processing methods for more sustainable lightweight structure composites.

Dr. Joanna Wong

Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering