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Xenon Flashlamp Heating for Automated Fibre Placement

David Williams, Martin Brown


Composites manufacturing processes use heating technologies of various kinds to melt, soften or cure the constituent materials. There is an on-going need to increase the speed and quality of these processes, in order to satisfy growing industrial demand, but current heating technologies have some significant limitations and are not always optimised for fast, high quality manufacture. In this paper, Heraeus Noblelight (HNL) introduces their breakthrough heating technology for composites manufacture. The technology is based on the Xenon flashlamp, a high-power, pulsed heat source that generates short-duration energy pulses at high average power with a broad spectral content. HNL has designed a technology that harnesses this energy and focusses it onto target composite materials in a highly controlled manner. Laboratory and industrial trials have shown that the technology is able to heat carbon-fibre reinforced composites quickly and controllably up to temperatures appropriate for prepreg, dry fibre and thermoplastic composites manufacture. Focussing on the Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) process, a comparison of this new, innovative technology is made with existing heating technologies, such as infrared lamps and lasers. The distinct advantages of the technology over equivalent laser sources, such as its small volume, greater controllability and its lower health and safety risks, are described in detail. A particular emphasis of the paper is dry fibre AFP lay-up, where speeds of up to 1 metre per second have been demonstrated and complex geometries have been achieved. The paper also outlines the opportunities the Xenon flashlamp technology provides for scaling up to wider heating areas for AFP applications.

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