My internship with TPI Composites was a very educational and fun experience. I began work with a very limited experience in the fields of composites and aerospace engineering stemming from my participation in boatbuilding projects. However, now I can say that with the skills and knowledge I have gained I have a much greater appreciation for the complex yet essential operations of TPI’s test laboratory. By building many test panels from different laminates, cores, and resin combinations I learned how varying these attributes of a structure changes how it reacts with finishing tools, withstands loads from the MTS test machines, and even fails to be built to specifications during the infusion process. Working on the site also exposed me to the facility’s larger scale operations, which included smaller wind blade construction. Certain elements from the test laboratory were clearly being used in the blades’ and their molds’ building process.
During the internship I followed test samples fully from cradle to grave. My job took me from material prep to panel infusion, then sample measurement and through the cutting room, and finally to the MTS machines. This gave me experience in both the craftsmanship part of the test sample construction and the technical side of testing on machines. Also, by building panels using RTMs and vacuum bag infusions I learned the pros and cons of each design and applied this knowledge to other projects within the company.
At TPI I joined the smaller test lab team as well as the larger company team. I learned how a multinational company divides up labor, production assignments, leadership, and resources between different facilities in international locations. I saw how companies like TPI must operate within the regulations of the industry’s governing bodies while still taking on new and exciting contracts over time. I also gained an understanding of how large companies are divided into smaller sections such as engineering, test laboratory, and floor production and these groups must work together efficiently.
In my free time I utilized TPI’s resources and the help of my coworkers to start building a small model sailboat. I began by building the hull and reinforcing the molds for future use. This project taught me about the basic layup and construction for a watercraft and how hull shapes of larger boats can be scaled down while still retaining the same hydrodynamic characteristics. TPI’s history in the sailing industry was evident as I learned from many different coworkers who had worked in different stages of the boat design and building process.
This internship was of particular value to me because the skills gained and information learned can be directly applied to both my aerospace interests and passion for racing sailboats. My work with TPI’s RTM equipment as well as my smaller project contributions will help with larger panel production in the future.