CW Blog

Real-time automated ply inspection (RTAPI) system: CW’s series on automated inspection methods

Anyone reading this blog probably knows that fast, efficient automated fiber placement (AFP) and automated tape laying (ATL) is actually not very fast and efficient, at least during the making of aerospace parts. Why? Because careful visual inspection and verification is needed after each ply, by trained human inspectors, to meet quality assurance requirements. See this link ( for our November 2013 issue, which shows an inspector with a magnifying glass inspecting a small area of the 34.5m-long wing spar for the A350, which puts manual inspection into perspective.

For a large composite part such as a fuselage barrel requiring hundreds of plies, the impact of inspection (and any rework) on automated process efficiency is significant, according to information presented at recent industry gatherings. For example, in a paper presented several years ago by Robert Harper of Fives Cincinnati (Hebron, KY, US) and Allen Halbritter of The Boeing Co. (Chicago, IL, US), based on a generic fuselage barrel and using an optimized AFP process, inspection and rework still made up more than 60% of the total part production time.

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CompositesWorld needs you

I’ll be brief: CompositesWorld needs your help. We are launching this week the inaugural CW Operations Survey, designed to help us — and you — better understand how the world of composites is evolving. 

Questions focus on how much of your business is based on composites manufacturing, how much growth you expect in the next year, what markets your facility serves, what kinds of materials you use, processes you run, etc. 

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SGL Group (Wiesbaden, Germany) recently announced its launch of a thermoplastic materials toolbox, which will include long fiber thermoplastics (LFTs), unidirectional (UD) tapes, organosheets in polyamide (PA) and new developments regarding carbon fiber sized for polypropylene composites, thermoplastic profiles and carbon/glass hybrids for automotive and other high-volume applications.

Though this had been mentioned in their pre-JEC launch of a new lightweighting toolbox, featuring products based on rapid-curing epoxy, this latest release focuses squarely on thermoplastics. CW reached out to SGL for more details, and shares them here.

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CW Talks: How carbon fiber beat out steel in elevator cabling

CW Talks: The Composites Podcast checks in this week with Steve Gonzalez, director – major projects unit, Americas, at elevator manufacturer KONE (Lisle, IL, US). Actually, KONE makes people transport systems, which Gonzalez explains. 

KONE has made a name for itself for the development of UltraRope, a pultruded carbon fiber flat cabling system designed to replace the steel cabling traditionally used to move elevators up and down inside a building. The problem is that as buildings get taller, the increased use of steel cabling becomes prohibitively heavy. And with buildings like the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, scheduled to check in at 1 km tall, a lightweight alternative is a necessity. 

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Talon Technology (Brookvale, Australia) develops medium- to high-volume carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) parts for manufacturers of consumer products, including furniture and sporting goods. “We support many companies in China and Asia, doing prototype development,” explains CEO Geoff Germon. “We also do a bit of work for the aerospace industry.” The Carbon-Kevlar Hinge, however was an in-house project, inspired by parts seen in model aircraft, where CFRP panels were scored and cracked to form a hinge. “This reminded us of the original hinges made from fabric and leather,” recalls Germon. “Our idea was to develop a composite hinge without any metal, that would be super lightweight and also a solution for industries that can’t use metal. It took us two years to optimize the performance of this hinge and develop it to be a manufacturable, packageable product.”


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