Machinery manufacturer Electroimpact (Mukilteo, Wash.) has announced the development of an automated fiber placement (AFP) machine cell that fully integrates the LASERGUIDE laser projection system from Assembly Guidance Systems Inc. (Chelmsford, Mass.). “One interface now allows operators to monitor and control both the AFP machine and the laser projection system, seamlessly,” explains Electroimpact engineer Todd Rudberg.
Integration addresses the remaining bottlenecks in automated production of composites — tasks that demand human intervention, including the transfer of data from the build sequencer to the projection software. Now, that data transfer step has been eliminated.
Creation of the single system was enabled by Assembly Guidance’s software development kit (SDK). “SDK provides ... tools that allow composites manufacturing systems to control Assembly Guidance laser projectors with their software,” notes Scott Blake, Assembly Guidance president. Reportedly, projection errors are reduced by a factor of five. “By having the laser system integrated,” Rudberg says, “the locations of the AFP machine, mandrel, and laser system are all precisely known relative to a common coordinate system, which results in considerably reduced discrepancy in projections and actual ply boundaries.” Accordingly, the laser system can be used to locate a part or machine within 0.015 inch/0.38 mm, without any physical contact between the part and the machine. Further, an automated touch probe can be used without risk of part damage due to uncertainty about its location.
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The US composites industry looks as strong as it has since early 2015, with expectations the highest in years.