AUTOMATED COMPOSITES

Tools for Automation

Combining the individual components of automated composites manufacturing is no small task. Synthesizing the primary and supporting processes with quality efforts, then pushing information back upstream from the design team’s benefit can be too difficult without the necessary tools. CGTech has specialized in providing the programming and simulation tools the composites manufacturing industry requires.

Ultimately providing NC code expertise, CGTech is the industry leader for generating and simulating Gcode in a manufacturing environment. Machine code is created for AFP, ATL, Probing, Cutting, Stitching, NDI, and Quality processes and then simulated. The act of simulating the post-processed Gcode, rather than the pre-processed state that many other solutions use, ensures that the Gcode that runs on the shop floor is the exact same as what’s validated.

CGTech has specialized in providing the programming and simulation tools the composites manufacturing industry requires.

Progamming

Tool paths are the foundation of automated composites manufacturing. Sound machine paths minimize process errors, ensure layup quality, and don’t cause collisions. CGTech is an expert at generating tool paths for a variety of composites processes including AFP, ATL, Probing, Cutting, Stitching, NDI, and Quality processes. Close partnerships with a myriad of machine vendors allows CGTech to create the same machine code that will run on your hardware.

Programmed tool paths for AFP and ATL can vary depending on process and manufacturing allowables. CGTech’s composite programming software, VERICUT Composite Programming (“VCP”), allows users to tailor their headpaths to best suit their specific process. For example, material attributes such as width and steerability, both of which have a high degree of impact on the quality of the final part, can be directly controlled within VCP. The method that the material is draped over the tool’s surfaces, whether it should strictly adhere to the ply angle or be allowed to deviate slightly – and by how much – is also directly controlled by the user. By enabling programmers with a robust set of tools, machine paths are created that best suit the user’s needs.

Once generated, tool paths can be analyzed for multiple aspects of producibility such as how far off the paths are from the desired ply angle, if the material is under tension or compression due to forced changes in direction (called “steering”), and identification of areas where complete material compaction is not present. Analyzing producibility at this stage facilitates for a straightforward process in headpath modification, as needed, that reduces process failures and part defects during manufacturing.

Once finalized, headpaths, which are comprised of machine-independent data until this point, are converted (“post-processed”) into machine-specific data via a machine-specific post-processor. These post-processors are tailor-made for each customer and their machine’s unique configuration and capabilities. Final checks can be performed to verify and eliminate potential collisions between the tool surface and the end of the machine.

In addition to generating the main processes toolpaths, paths for supporting processes can be generated together with the primary AFP and ATL processes. Whether the user needs to cut along the manufacturing-defined edge of part, probe the location of the tool, or label parts with an automated printer, VCP can generate paths and associated Gcode to facilitate these processes.

Simulation

Accurate Gcode machine simulation is vital in the fast paced manufacturing settings seen today. Project timelines don’t allow for operators to test run machines on physical hardware at greatly reduced speeds. But when engineering changes result in modification of the Gcode, how can managers ensure that deadlines are met and changes are vetted appropriately? Gcode simulation offered by CGTech provides the tools to support the ever-changing manufacturing environment many composites manufacturers find themselves in.

Combining Gcode, a virtual machine configuration, a machine control (FANUC, Siemens 840D, Kuka, etc.), and machine models, accurate machine simulation through VERICUT Composite Simulation (“VCS”) is a critical tool for composite manufacturing. Close partnership with hardware vendors provides the necessary access to accurate machine and work cell models. These relationships also ensures machine macros, machine-specific codes, and other critical information is up-to-date and accurate.

Simulating the same Gcode that will be run on the physical hardware ensures that issues within the Gcode are caught before time is wasted on the shop floor. Collisions are detected between any components of the machine, tooling, or surrounding work cell. This is only possible due to the accurate models, kinematics, and machine codes that VCS processes. Of particular usefulness is VCS’s ability to check for limit overtravels. Instead of guessing and checking on the physical machine, overtravels and singularities are caught ahead of time within the simulation software. One significant hurdle to programming robotic systems is verifying no singularities or joint overtravels exist, especially when the robot is mounted on an external linear track, as is often the case with advanced robotic cells. VCS makes catching these cases ahead of time as easy as hitting “play” in the simulation.

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CGTech Vericut

VERICUT simulates the entire CNC production and checks the NC program for collisions and errors before the real machine run