MAG IAS’s (Hebron, Ky.) new vertical gantry fiber placement system, the VIPER 7000, can be sized for parts of extreme length, making the system suitable for wind turbine blade shells, spars, spar caps and shear webs, as well as aerospace parts, such as stabilizer skins and wingskins. The system consumes less overall floor space than a conventional system, using mandrel-mounted tooling. It also accommodates fixed floor-mounted or rotation tooling in either outer mold line (OML) or inner mold line (IML) configurations. The gantry platform is available in low-rail or in-floor styles and can accommodate multiple gantries. Options include a dockable head and 32-creel magazine load. The system lays 32 tows of carbon or glass fiber prepreg tape, using tow widths of 3.25, 6.35 or 12.7 mm (0.125, 0.25 or 0.5 inch) to create a total bandwidth of up to 406 mm/16 inches. Other features include a segmented compaction roller, backing-film removal and an individual cut/clamp/restart head. The latter can change the ply angle on the fly, maintain a constant angle on a complex surface and add or cut individual tows at any time. The system can automatically adjust the fiber bandwidth to produce wrinkle-free parts on contours and around openings (such as doors, hatches, etc.). Its programmable processing options include fiber steering, parallel path, fixed path and limited parallel path. Combined with a CM100 controller and MAG’s ACES software for offline programming and simulation of the composite layup process, the system provides a closed-loop production suite of hardware and software. The software enables preproduction process evaluation and determination of process limits, material requirements and production rates. It also provides feedback on part producibility and process productivity, as well as output of the part program for the VIPER. Its graphic simulation capability enables layup and process optimization, collision avoidance and determination of fiber paths. ACES is compatible with CATIA V4 and V5, and it runs on Windows. The first VIPER 7000 unit was sold to Astraeus Wind Energy (Eaton Rapids, Mich.) for automated layup of wind turbine blades and other large wind energy parts at its location in Port Huron, Mich. The company is a collaboration between MAG and partners Jeff Metts and Roger Cope. It was formed in 2009 to revolutionize wind turbine component production through specially designed CNC modules and new automated technology for composite part production.
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