Fiberforge reveals new, improved manufacturing cell for thermoplastic parts

Fiberforge has introduced the latest generation of its patented Relay Station automated cell for laying thermoplastic prepreg tape to form a tailored blank.

Fiberforge (Glenwood Springs, Colo.) has introduced the latest generation of its patented Relay Station for the production of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite structures. The new Relay station produces parts up to six times faster compared with Fiberforge's original system, all with increased flexibility and adaptability and a more user-friendly interface. The Relay Station rapidly lays up a multi-ply laminate out of unidirectional, fiber-reinforced thermoplastic composite tape. The resulting product, a near-net shape pre-form, referred to by the company as a tailored blank, is then consolidated and thermoformed into a final part.

"Although our goal of rapidly producing tailored blanks has not changed, the mechanics are fundamentally different in our new Relay Station,"comments Fiberforge's president and CEO, Jon Fox-Rubin. "Rather than making incremental changes to our prior layup technology, we leapfrogged it with a new, completely novel technique. The result is a much more robust and capable system with tremendous throughput.”

According to David Cramer, Fiberforge's chief technologist, the new system is capable of processing well over one million pounds of fiber-reinforced tape annually. If a part weighs 5 pounds, this means that a single Relay Station can generate over two hundred thousand parts every year. "The use of composites in volume applications has traditionally been limited by the time required to produce a part,"says Cramer. "Fiberforge's latest generation Relay Station moves advanced composites closer to traditional materials, such as metals and plastics, in terms of volume throughput and automation.”

The Relay Station lays up laminates from a wide variety of fiber and resin types, and produces parts of varying thickness and with fiber directions tailored to maximize performance. The automated, programmable system significantly reduces the labor required to produce composite parts, and produces parts with a significant reduction in scrap compared to traditional methods-an important factor in reducing cost.

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