Evaluating AFP Producability

With AFP, several iterations are often required between part programming and part design. To be producible, a design must allow for the surface curvature’s effect on material steering limits and the ability to achieve desired fiber directions and overlap/gap allowance. A reasonable prediction of actual manufacturing results can be achieved by creating AFP paths and analyzing how they actually lay on tool surfaces, and subsequently feeding that information back into the part design process. Traditionally this information is not available until NC programming creates the actual NC program for the AFP lay-up machine. When a problem is discovered at this late stage, and the design must be modified as a result, significant delays can occur.

A composite part designer, mechanical engineer or process engineer can access the same software tools NC programmers use to create AFP NC program paths that are subsequently used in the workshop to lay-up a composite part. Using these tools the part designer or engineer can easily create and experiment with various AFP path options and evaluate how AFP lay-up affects a composite part’s design intent. By producing actual AFP lay-up courses that can be used to program AFP fabrication equipment in the workshop, the user can measure and evaluate the effects of AFP path trajectory, material steering, surface curvature, course convergence and other process constraints as they would be applied in manufacturing. Simulated fiber path geometry can be written to various CAD formats for further evaluation by the user’s existing analysis methods and tools.

Factors that effect producibiltiy:

  • Fiber angle
  • Course overlap and gap
  • Material conformance to curved surfaces
  • Material steering