Intelligent Composites Design and Manufacture

Uploaded 16 Mar @ 15:17pm

Held during February 2018 in the University of Nottingham’s Advanced Manufacturing Building, this year’s SAMPE annual seminar attracted over 100 delegates from industry and academia.
A total of nine presentations covered a wide range of subjects, from the diverse demands that various industry sectors face to recycling waste composite materials, and even the ongoing research being undertaken to apply Artificial Intelligence to the composite layup process.
The Keynote presentation by Sebastien Greber, Solvay, covered ‘Resin Infusion Material Developments for Integrated Structures’. The company’s latest aerospace developments were presented in relation to dedicated resin infusion (RI) technologies. The aircraft market is large, for example the Airbus 320 build rate is around 60 per month, and an increase in the use of RI is forecast, from less than 5 per cent in 2017 to more than 25 per cent in 2035, including thermoplastics.
Sebastien Greber provided a number of material examples suitable for various aerospace applications. The Irkut MS-21 wing and spar were presented as case studies, the MS-21 is a single aisle twin jet engine Russian aircraft similar in size and specification to the Airbus A320. In this application TX1100 fibre with EP2400 resin is used, processed by AFP. For the MS-21 spar, the low bulk and high stability of TX1100 enables AFP lay-up on the male tool, and cure in the female mould.
RI enables low production costs with high structural integrity, fewer assembly holes, lower capital and supply chain costs (no autoclave) and shorter time to production. However, the required textiles can be expensive.
Shashitha Kularatna from the University of Bristol presented ‘Developments in composite drape simulation by the incorporation of AI techniques’. He said hand lay-up is still the main route for making complex structures. AFP often needs some hand lay-up assistance to achieve non-wrinkling of fibre reinforcements, particularly with woven fabrics.
‘From Scrap to Structure: Changing the Perception of Waste’ was the title of Ross Key’s presentation for Solvay. Solvay has a mission for green processes, targeting 50 per cent sustainable solutions and a 20 per cent reduction in carbon waste. As an industry standard, CFRP utilisation is typically 65 – 75 per cent. This is a ‘lost’ cost to the Solvay business and generates up to 1 tonne each year of hazardous waste with additional costs of disposal.
Solvay has targeted 100 per cent utilisation and a key innovation here is in Recyclate Moulding Compound (RMC). The RMC process uses a special extruder that feeds in uncured prepreg and converts continuous fibre to short fibres of variable length. Solvay has developed special prepreg resins to be compatible with the RMC process with, for example, viscosity retention after reprocessing.
Andrew Mills, Cranfield University, introduced everyone to PROSEL: An Online Design Tool for High Performance Composites Materials and Process Selection. He pointed out that while data for metals is well established, the effective use of composite materials is still sometimes considered a ‘black art’, despite a 50-years history with prepreg tapes and woven fabrics. Knowledge often lies in pockets of individual expertise with no central data base. Also, new products and processes are constantly being added to the manufacturing bank. Data access is important for both optimum use and for training new engineers.
There are many aspects to a new component that must be considered: shape limitations, reinforcement options depending on performance requirements, production rate, structural requirements and so on. He accessed the PROSEL ( database on screen and provided an example of what needs to be considered for making an automotive roof. Each constituent in the supply chain is highlighted and opens a huge list of suppliers and products. For example, tool options reveal a list of at least 15 types. Similar lists are established on the database for fabrics, fibres, resins, process types, and equipment.
The program enables a combination of requirements to be put together, and then a relatively short list of options is revealed. The summary gives supplier name, process type, product, basic properties, weight, cost, labour cost, and finally estimated total cost of use.
This is a unique world-wide resource.
The database is detailed and up to date; it is impartial and rational and is frequently updated.

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