Comparative life cycle assessment and cost analysis of autoclave and pressure bag molding for producing CFRP components

  • Alessio VitaEmail author
  • Vincenzo Castorani
  • Michele Germani
  • Marco Marconi


Composite materials are demonstrating the ability to face the challenge of competitive markets where high-performance, low costs, and reduced manufacturing time are mandatory. Vacuum bagging with autoclave curing is one of the most used manufacturing methods for carbon fiber composite parts. However, it shows some limitations, mainly due to manual operations and long processing time. Out-of-autoclave (OOA) methods, such as pressure bag molding (PBM), can lead to a strong reduction of the manufacturing time through the simplification of lay-up and curing phases. In this paper, a comparative analysis between the autoclave and the PBM processes has been performed, jointly considering both the economic and environmental aspects. An evaluation of the environmental impacts has been carried out following the standardized life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. In addition, costs related to these two manufacturing techniques have been estimated through a parametric approach and successively compared. Different scenarios have been considered to take into account various production batches, mold manufacturing techniques, and end of life alternatives. The analyses show conflicting results demonstrating that a global optimum scenario does not exist and, depending on the chosen indicator and production batch, the best alternative varies. Considering only the environmental indicators, the autoclave process can be considered the most sustainable option, due to the lower consumption of energy.


Autoclave Out of autoclave processing Prepreg Life cycle assessment Cost analysis Scenario analysis 



The authors acknowledge the support offered by HP Composites s.r.l. (Ascoli Piceno, Italy) for the data retrieval.


  1. 1.
    Holmes M (2017) Carbon composites continue to find new markets. Reinf Plast 61:36–40. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mathes V (2018) The composites industry: plenty of opportunities in heterogeneous market. Reinf Plast 62:44–51. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rao S, Simha TGA, Rao KP, Ravikumar GV V. (2015) Carbon composites are becoming competitive and cost effective. Infosys website 2–3Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nickels L (2017) Composites driving the auto industry. Reinf Plast 62:38–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Duflou JR, De Moor J, Verpoest I, Dewulf W (2009) Environmental impact analysis of composite use in car manufacturing. CIRP Ann - Manuf Technol 58:9–12. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Witik RA, Payet J, Michaud V, Ludwig C, Månson JAE (2011) Assessing the life cycle costs and environmental performance of lightweight materials in automobile applications. Compos Part A Appl Sci Manuf 42:1694–1709. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Faster cycle, better surface: out of the autoclave : CompositesWorld. Accessed 17 Apr 2018
  8. 8.
    Advani SG, Hsiao K-T (2012) Manufacturing techniques for polymer matrix composites (PMCs). Woodhead PubGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Henning F, Kärger L, Dörr D, Schirmaier FJ, Seuffert J, Bernath A (2019) Fast processing and continuous simulation of automotive structural composite components. Compos Sci Technol 171:261–279. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Summerscales J, Searle TJ (2005) Low-pressure (vacuum infusion) techniques for moulding large composite structures. Proc Inst Mech Eng Part L J Mater Des Appl 219:45–58. Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hwang S-S, Park SY, Kwon G-C, Choi WJ (2018) Cure kinetics and viscosity modeling for the optimization of cure cycles in a vacuum-bag-only prepreg process. Int J Adv Manuf Technol 99:2743–2753. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Kay J, Fahrang L, Hsiao K, Fernlund G (2011) Effect of process conditions on porosity in out-of-autoclave prepreg laminates. In: 18Th international conference on composite materialsGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Liu S, Li Y, Shen Y, Lu Y (2019) Mechanical performance of carbon fiber/epoxy composites cured by self-resistance electric heating method. Int J Adv Manuf Technol 103:3479–3493. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Crivelli Visconti I, Langella A (1992) Analytical modelling of pressure bag technology. Compos Manuf 3:3–6. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Mitchell P, Society of Manufacturing Engineers (1996) Tool and manufacturing engineers handbook. Volume 8, plastic part manufacturing: a reference book for manufacturing engineers, managers, and technicians. In: Society of Manufacturing EngineersGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Park S, Lee D, Song J (2018) Fabrication and evaluation of mechanical properties of carbon/epoxy square tube using pressure bag molding and compared with autoclave method. Int J Precis Eng Manuf 19:441–446. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Drozda T, Wick C, Benedict JT, et al (1983) Tool and manufacturing engineers handbook: a reference book for manufacturing engineers, managers, and technicians. Society of Manufacturing EngineersGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Duflou JR, Deng Y, Van Acker K, Dewulf W (2012) Do fiber-reinforced polymer composites provide environmentally benign alternatives? A life-cycle-assessment-based study. MRS Bull 37:374–382. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Suzuki T, Takahashi J (2005) Prediction of energy intensity of carbon fiber reinforced plastics for mass-produced passenger cars. Ninth Japan Int SAMPE Symp JISSE-9:14–19Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Song YS, Youn JR, Gutowski TG (2009) Life cycle energy analysis of fiber-reinforced composites. Compos Part A Appl Sci Manuf 40:1257–1265. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Witik RA, Gaille F, Teuscher R, Ringwald H, Michaud V, Månson JAE (2012) Economic and environmental assessment of alternative production methods for composite aircraft components. J Clean Prod 29–30:91–102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tong R, Hoa SV, Chen M (2011) Cost analysis on L-shape composite component manufacturing. In: Proc 18th Int Conf Compos Mater 1–5Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Baskaran M, Sarrionandia M, Aurrekoetxea J, et al (2014) Manufacturing cost comparison of RTM, HP-RTM and CRTM for an automotive roof. ECCM16 16th Eur Conf Compos Mater 22–26Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Vita A, Castorani V, Germani M, Marconi M (2018) Comparative life cycle assessment of low-pressure RTM, compression RTM and high-pressure RTM manufacturing processes to produce CFRP car hoods. Procedia CIRPGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Potter K, Bloom D, Crowley D, et al (2017) Automating the manufacture of very complex composite structures. In: ICCM International Conferences on Composite Materials. pp 20–25Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Louis BM (2010) Gas transport in out-of-autoclave prepreg laminates. THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIAGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Arafath ARA, Fernlund G, Poursartip A (2009) Gas transport in prepregs: model and permeability experiments. Proc 17th Int Conf Compos Mater 1–9Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Slesinger N, Shimizu T, Arafath ARA, Poursartip A (2009) Heat transfer coefficient distribution. ICCM 17th, 27 Jul - 31 Jul 1–10Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Anderson JP, Altan MC (2012) Properties of composite cylinders fabricated by bladder assisted composite manufacturing. J Eng Mater Technol 134:044501. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Kar KK (2016) Composite materials: processing, applications, characterizations. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Vita A, Castorani V, Mandolini M, Papetti A, Germani M (2019) Cost and temperature homogeneity optimization of the heating system for composite materials air press molding. Comput Des Appl 16:1084–1097. Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    ISO-International Organization for Standardization (2006) Environmental management—life cycle assessment—principles and framework. ISO EN:14040Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    ISO-International Organization for Standardization (2006) Environmental management—life cycle assessment—requirements and guidelines. ISO EN 14044Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Wernet G, Bauer C, Steubing B, Reinhard J, Moreno-Ruiz E, Weidema B (2016) The ecoinvent database version 3 (part I): overview and methodology. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21:1218–1230. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Duverlie P, Castelain JM (1999) Cost estimation during design step: parametric method versus case based reasoning method. Int J Adv Manuf Technol 15:895–906. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Khalil YF (2017) Eco-efficient lightweight carbon-fiber reinforced polymer for environmentally greener commercial aviation industry. Sustain Prod Consum 12:16–26. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    (2016) EUROPEAN ALUMINIUM, Recycling aluminium a pathway to a sustainable economy. Accessed 22 Feb 2019
  38. 38.
    Goedkoop M, Heijungs R, De Schryver A, et al (2013) ReCiPe 2008. A LCIA method which comprises harmonised category indicators at the midpoint and the endpoint level. Characterisation. A life cycle impact … 133. Accessed 8 Feb 2019
  39. 39.
    Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M et al (2007) IPCC, 2007: climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  2. 2.Università degli Studi della TusciaViterboItaly

Personalised recommendations