Cevotec extends Fiber Patch Placement to sandwich structures, large aerostructures and enables combining with AFP

Automated preforming and layup process addresses core materials, as well as both continuous AFP and patch FPP reinforcements.

Fiber Patch Placement (FPP) is an automated preforming and layup technology for the production of complex fiber-reinforced composite parts used in aerospace and automotive applications as well as medical devices and sports equipment. FPP cuts reinforcement materials to tailored patches and robotically applies these patches to a tool. The resulting 3D, complex-shaped layup may be dry reinforcement which is then infused with resin or cured or, alternatively, may be prepreg tape which is heated and cured into a finished part. In close cooperation with leading aerospace parts manufacturers, Cevotec has further developed FPP to meet the latest industry requirements.
 

Automated aerospace sandwich structures

Cevotec has developed SAMBA Multi production systems to produce complex sandwich construction components by applying a sophisticated material mix, such as adhesive films, glass fiber and carbon fiber layers onto commonly used sandwich cores such as aluminum honeycomb. "SAMBA Multi production systems enable the automated lay-up of this type of multi-material mix in one single system," reports Cevotec CTO Felix Michl. In addition to glass fiber fleeces, metal structures and wood cores (e.g., balsa), SAMBA Multi can apply  load-adjusted fiber patch reinforcements to honeycomb, foam and other core materials. Depending on process requirements, this can be done in-line or in parallel to line production to optimize cycle times.

SAMBA Multi has parallel units for feeding different materials which are then placed precisely on 3D sandwich cores or preforming tools. By mounting the FPP unit on a linear axis, the concept also enables the production of long and wide components for aerospace applications. Adapted to specific component sizes, patch grippers have been scaled to DIN-A5 and DIN-A4 sizes to meet the requirements of common aircraft components. An integrated gripper station enables the exchange of grippers during the process.

"The automated multi-material lay-up of complex sandwich components has an extremely positive effect on process times and thus the production volume," explains Thorsten Groene, Cevotec managing director. "Fiber deposition with controlled pressure and heat enables skipping intermediate compactions and thus reduces process times significantly.” FPP sustainably reduces recurring production costs in many applications, adds Groene. "Material savings of 20-50% play a major role, but automation with FPP often enables further optimization of the overall process.”

SAMBA Multi is also readily scalable. The same process works both for a few hundred and several thousand units per year," explains Michl. These are expected scenarios in the up-and-coming “flying car” industry, for example.  “Thanks to the quick-change system and short set-up times, a product change on the system is no problem and economically reasonable: During ramp-up, an FPP system’s capacity can be used for several components. With increasing quantities, the machine park is expanded and the systems become more dedicated. The advantage: the process remains the same – no new product development and no re-qualification of parts are necessary."
 

Combining AFP and FPP laminates

Cevotec has been asked if FPP and Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) processes could be combined. “Yes,” says Cevotec executive vice president Dr. Neven Majic. “We are currently extending our ARTIST STUDIO software to accommodate the relevant features for laminate design with endless fiber tapes as used in AFP processes. The new module TAPE ARTIST will be seamlessly integrated into ARTIST STUDIO, and will also use MOTION ARTIST for machine data generation and process simulation.” TAPE ARTIST can also be combined with PATCH ARTIST into a single joint module, enabling engineers to design integrated laminates based on both AFP and FPP technology.

Like SAMBA Multi, TAPE ARTIST will be presented to the public this fall at Composites GoCarbon Fiber (Oct 9-11, Berlin, Germany), Advanced Engineering (Oct 31-Nov 1, Birmingham, UK) and Composites Europe (Nov 6-8, Stuttgart, Germany) and will be commercially available by the end of the year.