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  • 23-Mar-2012 04:43 EDT

Exploring the Manual Forming of Complex Geometry Composite Panels for Productivity and Quality Gains in Relation to Automated Forming Capabilities


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In a variety of industries there is a growing need to manufacture high quality carbon fibre epoxy matrix composite structures at greater production rates and lower costs than has historically been the case. This has developed into a desire for the automation of the manufacture of components, and in particular the lay-up phase, with Automated Tape Laying (ATL) and Fibre Placement (AFP) the most popular choices. When used for large primary structures there are such potential gains to be had that both techniques have seen rapid implementation into manufacturing environments. But significant concerns remain and these have limited their wider adoption into secondary structure manufacturing, where manual forming of woven broadgoods is dominant. As a result the manufacture of secondary structures is generally explored for costs reduction through drape simulation and lower cost materials. Improvements in lay-up quality and yield are possible, but the effect of this approach on productivity and build costs has perhaps been under explored. This paper investigates this by reviewing the manufacture of a complex geometry representative of a fixed trailing edge panel, identifying the current forming philosophy and then applying novel drape simulation tools to improve on that forming route to facilitate productivity increases. This was possible by the development of unambiguous forming instruction sets, that when combined with some preforming solutions further increased the productivity and cost reduction potential. The low cost manual forming was compared to an in-house AFP productivity assessment, and it was found that the rates were comparable on an hourly deposition rate, but when assessed in terms of other metrics manual forming could still remain the most suitable manufacturing route. The work has shown that for complex structures manual forming with well developed drape solutions can still be the most low cost and productive process.

Carwyn Ward, Univ. of Bristol

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Exploring the Manual Forming of Complex Geometry Composite Panels for Productivity and Quality Gains in Relation to Automated Forming Capabilities
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At the end of 2006, two MTorres engineers visited the plant of Airbus UK in Filton receiving a new challenge: Find a more efficient way to manufacture Carbon Fiber Spars for the new A350 program. The range of possibilities were wide: manual infusion methods (RTM, RIM, RFI...), Automatic Taping & hot forming, or the new technology proposed, Fiberplacement or AFP. Two (2) options were considered: hot forming+ATL and AFP (both using prepeg technology.) The usage of a flat lay-up + hot forming technology was used in the only Airbus program that used carbon fiber for the wing manufacturing so far, the A400M. The expected greater complexity of A350 spar created doubts on the feasibility of using the above process, while the AFP technology, consisting of laying up directly on the final shape of the spar, also raised questions of technical feasibility, apart from the economic ?business case?, in case the productivity of the cell was not big enough. A ?Spar team?

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