State-of-the-art capabilities

The National Composites Centre (Bristol, UK) has  unveiled the latest of its state-of-the-art capabilities in the form of a new AFP- ATL cell.

 The cell, created in partnership with Electroimpact (Flintshire, UK) is a uniquely designed capability that combines both AFP and ATL in a single system. The dual system can be used individually or together to collaborate and create large, complex structures with minimal downtime. The robot is intended for medium to large scale manufacturing with high performance and accuracy robotic motion platform.

The new cell is the exciting final piece in an impressive £36.7m jigsaw of ten new fully digital automated composite manufacturing capabilities that have been installed in the past 18 months.

The Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) process head utilises x 8 tows, each measuring 12.7mm wide, with either an infrared heater to manufacture thermoset composites, or the novel humm3® flash technology which has been developed by Heraeus Noblelight Ltd. (Cambridge, UK) and tested at the NCC for to manufacture thermosets of low temperatures (30-60 degrees) and high temperature thermoplastics or bindered dry fibre (100-300 degrees).

The Automated Tape Layup (ATL) head can deposit tapes of 75, 200 or 300mm widths using the same heating systems and material processing capability as AFP.

Vertical and horizontal rotators allow for complex tools to be used to create geometries such as convex and concave panels, large scale diameter pipes, spars or barrel/tower structures. The rotators enable components of up to 4.6m diameter, and 7m in length to be manufactured. The cell’s flat tables also allow for smaller scale analyses such as material testing or prototype trials to de-risk programs and build knowledge prior to larger scale projects.


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