MAG IAS (Erlanger, Ky.) on Jan. 25 announced the introduction of the new GEMINI Composite Processing System, a manufacturing solution capable of switching within minutes from automated fiber placement (AFP) to automated tape laying (ATL). The company says the system cuts the capital cost of duplicate equipment, infrastructure and labor traditionally needed to install and maintain separate AFP and ATL systems, making it suitable for aerospace tier suppliers who must have AFP/ATL flexibility but require cost economy. The first GEMINI system has already been purchased by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and will be installed at ATK’s Iuka, Miss., facility. The system’s modular vertical gantry design can be configured for multiple work zones or extremely long parts and uses MAG’s VIPER AFP head and either MAG’s CHARGER or Forest Liné’s (Granby, France) ATLAS ATL heads. Head docking cradles outside the work zone allow offline setup or maintenance of the heads while the machine continues to produce parts; the head changeover takes only two minutes.
The gantry design accommodates fixed floor-mounted or rotation-type tooling in outer mold line (OML) or inner mold line (IML) configurations. Available in various widths and any length, the gantry setup can be had with x-axis rails for either on-floor (surface mount) or in-floor (flush mount) installation. A new wireless control pendant provides freedom and convenience for technicians who work with the system. The system also can support multiple gantries.
Head designs: VIPER AFP heads handle tow widths of 3.2, 6.4 and 12.7 mm (0.125, 0.25 and 0.5 inch), producing fiber bandwidths of up to 203.3 mm/8 inches. They feature independent control over feed, clamp, cut and restart for up to 16 individual tows of composite prepreg slit tape, enabling automated on-the-fly adjustment of the fiber bandwidth, controlled placement of fibers around changing contours, and precise configuration of openings. MAG’s CHARGER tape laying head applies 75-, 150- or 300-mm (3-, 6- or 12-inch) carbon/epoxy tape in any orientation and number of plies, at speeds of up to 100 m/min (4,000 ipm). The head allows side loading of tape rolls up to 300 mm/12 inches wide and 650 mm/25.6 inches in diameter. Common hardware permits layup of 150-mm/6-inch and 300-mm/12-inch wide tape with minimal changeover time. The head design also features integrated ultrasonic laminate cutting, cutter depth-setting assistance and dockable inkjet marking. Its infrared heating system is said to provide faster response and greater precision than air heating. The Forest Liné ATLAS tape head dispenses precut rolls of material that were made on the Forest Liné Access system. Along with the precut roll of tape, the ATLAS head can carry simultaneously bulk rolls of material 150 or 300 mm (6 or 12 inches) wide, allowing a part to built up using both precut rolls of material and material from bulk rolls of tape.
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The teams are still working on the design but the aircraft is expected to have a wingspan of about 3 feet and will be made of double ply, carbon fiber.