Turnkey manufacturing systems: Part-per-minute thermoplastic composites

Pinette Emidecau Industries’ (PEI, Chalon-sur-Saône, France) leads a consortium of providers that are collaborating on the Quilted Stratum Process (QSP), a means to accelerate thermoplastic composites processing in the auto industry.
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Pinette Emidecau Industries’ (PEI, Chalon-sur-Saône, France) was the first equipment provider in Europe for Airbus’ (Toulouse, France) thermoplastic composites efforts. “There is a huge Pinette press at Fokker [Papendrecht, The Netherlands], which was put into place to fabricate J-nose structures for the A330/A340,” notes North America business development manager Andrew Rypkema. He says Pinette is now transitioning this expertise into auto composites, developing the Quilted Stratum Process (QSP) toward viability for rapid cycle times (i.e., one part per minute) with a consortium that includes Cetim (technical center for the mechanical industry, Senlis, France), Loiretech (Mauves-sur-Loire, France) and mold specialist Compose (Bellignat, France). QSP and a subsequent stamp-forming press are the first two pieces of the French national high-speed, high-volume production line for composite structures.

QSP automates production of preforms with multiple layers, thicknesses and material orientations while imparting functional integration and reducing scrap. The prototype line at Cetim has used mostly nylon 6 and carbon fiber reinforcement, but Rypkema says it can use a range of thermoplastics and produce multi-material preforms with localized, tailored reinforcement. Combined with PEI’s presses, which Rypkema says are precise enough to do in-mold coating, “the goal is Class A surfaces.” 

QSP parts currently undergoing trials include suspension arms, overmolded brackets and automotive body panels. The fully integrated production line achieves cycle times of 40-90 seconds for preforms up to eight layers, with four tapes per layer. High-speed enablers include high-speed infrared (IR) ovens and automated tool change technologies that achieve single-minute exchange of die (SMED), a well-known lean manufacturing standard. In addition to automotive, QSP reportedly is targeting aircraft clips, frames, seats and engine parts as well as lifting and agricultural equipment components and connecting rods.

This short article is a Side Story to a feature article titled "Turnkey manufacturing systems: Materials, markets & maturation.