Therm-O-Plan

Automated Path Planing and Monitoring of Automated-Fiber-Placement-Processes

The Automated-Fiber-Placement (AFP) is one of the leading manufacturing technologies in the field of cost-effective, high-quality serial production of light-weight structures. Nevertheless, both the reliability of the automated production systems and the efficiency of the process planning still offer improvement potential. In addition to the aerospace industry, the automotive industry and other high-demanding lightweight construction industries are pushing further developments.

In the AFP process, pre-impregnated carbon fibers (tows) are placed automatically on a tool surface. Due to recent technological advances in the production technology, increasingly complex components can be realized. However, this progress also leads to a higher complexity of the tools and tool surfaces. Notwithstanding available CAD/CAM-applications, the additional high structural requirements for CFRP laminates require a manual, very time consuming adaptation of the laying path while adhering to strict design rules. In addition to the selected tow paths, the process parameters have a decisive influence on the laying quality. Inadequately pre-heated tool surfaces or deviating compaction pressure can lead to defects such as tows separating from the surface. If the occurring errors are not detected and corrected, deviations from the component’s design and structural requirements occur. In general, the machine operator is responsible for assuring the quality of the product. This is usually done by visually inspecting the individual layers. This approach not only restricts the productivity of the AFP process, but also entails high repair costs for undiscovered errors which need to be corrected at a later stage. In exceptional cases this can lead to the rejection of the entire component.

The „Therm-O-Plan“ project is a cooperation between the Institute of Production Engineering and Machine Tools of the Leibniz Universität Hannover, Automation Technology GmbH and Systemtechnik Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH (SMWS). The aim of the project is to reduce the planning effort for the production of light-weight structures by automated optimized path planning. In addition, the project aims to increase the process reliability of the AFP process by means of online thermographic process monitoring. The partial developments pursued in this process are integrated in a higher-level solution approach and can easily be implemented in conventional AFP process chains.

Funding: Central Innovation Program for SMEs (ZIM)

Duration: 2015-2017

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Dr. Carsten Schmidt