About the automation of complex aerospace sandwich panels

Last year, we launched the grant-supported project ACoSaLUS (automated composite sandwich lay-up system) together with GKN Aerospace Deutschland GmbH, TUM – Chair of Carbon Composites, SGL Carbon, Augsburg University of Applied Sciences and Vabatec GmbH. True to its name, the aim of the project is to automate the production of composite sandwich parts by developing and testing new manufacturing and control components and processes. As already presented in one of our last newsletters and in our project two-pager, Cevotec’s scope of work encompasses both software and hardware developments. After more than one year of project work, we would like to update you with the current developments.

One of the project goals is to significantly improve the net lay-up speed for honeycomb sandwich structures by further advancing our Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) technology. Aside advancing the lay-up process we are targeting a flexible manufacturing process to precisely place honeycomb material on complex geometries, increase the productivity and reduce overall cycle time. Currently, we are focusing on extending our proprietary gripper technology. We are developing a dedicated honeycomb gripper and aiming to implement an active force-feedback function to optimize compaction pressure during the lay-up process.

Within this project, we also want to push further the boundaries of automatic quality control for our FPP process. The goal is to provide an optical control and quality assurance of fiber deposition and detect possible defects in the laminate immediately after placement. We already enabled our system to identify different kinds of patches and materials with very high accuracy on patch level. However, to detect and check overlapping patches is still a challenge, especially when it comes to “black-on-black” patches. We are currently exploring neural network-based machine learning to handle complex scenarios such as the identification of unidirectional patches placed in parallel direction. In the next step, our team and partners will realize a prototype of an optical post-placement quality control system.

By the end of the project in June 2023, we aim to have tested and evaluated a fully automated lay-up process for sandwich parts using our FPP technology, including advanced in-line inspection routines, with the objective to transfer the developments into aerospace series production. Stay tuned for further developments and the results of this exciting project!


About Cevotec

Munich-based automation specialist Cevotec offers one of the world’s most advanced production systems for complex fiber composites. At the intersection of composites, mechanical engineering and software, Cevotec develops production systems and software based on Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) technology: SAMBA and ARTIST STUDIO. The production systems enable the automated lay-up of carbon fiber, glass fibers, adhesive films and other technical fibers on complex 3D geometries. Manufacturers use FPP technology to produce e.g. multi-material aerostructures, composite pressure vessel reinforcements, and other high-performance components in a quality-controlled, fully automated process, which enables them to realize cost & cycle time savings of 20%-60% when switching from conventional processes to Fiber Patch Placement.

This research and development project was funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy (funding code LABAY113C). The responsibility for the content of this publication remains with the authors.

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