Airborne introduces Automated Ply Placement Technology at JEC World 2022

The Hague, May 2 2022 – At the JEC World 2022, Airborne will have a première with their introduction of the Automated Ply Placement technology. This technology can make multi-material, free shape and tailored laminates in an automated and extremely user-friendly way, which is unique compared to other composite automation technologies like ATL or AFP. The Automated Ply Placement technology enables users to create the optimal composite designs and benefit from full automation.

Converting composite material into tailored blank laminates or preforms is a crucial but vulnerable step of making composite parts. It is either a very manual and slow process, or an automated process with limitations in the materials to use or the shapes to be made. With the Airborne Automated Ply Placement technology, a designer can use all materials available on the market, create the optimal laminate with freeform edges and patches or cut-outs,  and design for optimal performance with the high accuracy laminates that system can manufacture.  And this is possible in prepreg, dry fibre or thermoplastic composites.

User-friendly technology for Automated Ply Placement

Airborne’s Automated Ply Placement technology can be used with UD-tape or textiles (fabric, NCF), film, core material, recycled materials, metal layers, etc. The technology is able to handle materials on roll as well as sheet materials. Also sandwich laminates can be made. The system cuts the materials into the right ply shapes, stores it in the buffer station, and creates the laminate with advanced, robotic ply placement that includes spot-welding to stabilise the laminate.  The plies are accurately placed thanks to the advanced robot control and fully inspected by vision. The technology provides a 100% net-shape laminates and no trimming is needed. Also, the system can be used in an extremely user-friendly way with the Automated Programming software that Airborne has on all it’s systems. The design, material and operational input is automatically translated to the right machine code and process settings, on-the-fly and on the shopfloor.

What benefits does the system offer?

There are multiple benefits to this technology for the user.  First of all, the lay-up process is fully automated and integrated in one system: cutting, inspection, placement and storage of plies and finished laminates. Secondly, laminate designs can be created that are not feasible or difficult to manufacture with other technologies. This opens a whole spectrum of possibilities for the user to create better products and be more competitive.  Thirdly, the system is ready to use future materials that are coming to the market, such as recycled materials, bio-based materials or novel material forms that can not be processed with for example fibre placement.  And finally, since it is a robotic system, the downstream processes such as press/hot-drape forming, trimming, inspection or placement into the mould can easily be integrated.

Marcus Kremers, CTO of Airborne, says: “This new technology of Automated Ply Placement opens up many new possibilities for automation and laminate designs. In composites, there are of course many materials to choose from and almost all of them come as wide rolls. With other automation technologies, those need to be slit which is expensive and limits the availability of materials. The ability to automated manufacturing then comes with a limitation in materials and we have aimed to solve that. The system we developed can work with all composite materials to provide the designer maximum freedom.“

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