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Automated Fiber Placement for Composites

Suong Van Hoa


Advanced composites have seen dramatic increase in applications in many important areas, particularly in aerospace. As more and more composites are used, the need for automated composites manufacturing becomes more and more relevant. This is due to many reasons: 1. The need for speed of material deposition. As larger and larger structures are made using composites, it is necessary to have fast deposition of the material such as prepregs. The use of hand-lay-up is too slow. 2. The need to eliminate the variability due to hand work. Hand-lay-up lends itself to possibility in variation from one operator to another, and from day to day even for a single worker. 3. The need to reduce waste. Techniques such as hand-lay-up tend to use fabrics or tapes of relatively large dimensions. Significant amount of waste can and have resulted in large amount of waste of expensive materials. 4. The need to provide uniform tension in the fibers. Properties of the composite laminates depend critically on the tension in the fibers. The use of machine can provide more uniform tension in the fibers as compared to techniques such as hand-lay-up. 5. The need to have seamless transition between manufacturing, analysis and design. Computer files generated from analysis and design can be transferred directly to the machine used for automated manufacturing. As such faster working environment and less error prone process can be developed. Recent advances in automated composite fiber placement can allow the above to be realized. Apart from the above advantages, there are composite structures that can only be made using automated fiber placement technique, since other techniques are not capable to make the structure. This paper addresses the above points and presents an example where automated fiber placement machine can be used to produce unique composite structures with unique capabilities not seen before.

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