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6/3/2013 | 3 MINUTE READ

NCDMM selects Ingersoll Machine Tools for AFRL project

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The Rockford, Ill.-based machine tool mainstay will partner with the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (Blairsville, Pa.) on a Defense Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology project managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio).

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The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM, Blairsville, Pa.) announced May 16 that after a competitive solicitation process it has selected Ingersoll Machine Tools Inc. (Rockford, Ill.) as its partner for a Defense Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology (DMS&T) project managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Recently, NCDMM was awarded the effort to oversee the development of a system to automate an inspection method that could detect defects in components for aircraft produced by automated fiber placement (AFP). NCDMM extended invitations to a select group of existing suppliers, offering an opportunity to participate in a competitive process to find a partner.

"Ingersoll Machine Tools detailed the most suitable approach, and they possess the required resources, the management expertise, and an enormous amount of AFP experience to achieve all the project requirements,” said Ralph Resnick, NCDMM president and executive director. “By partnering with Ingersoll Machine Tools and working in conjunction with the DMS&T Program and AFRL, I am confident that we will successfully develop an automated inspection system capable of supporting and improving high-speed AFP operations.”

Dr. Tino Oldani, president and CEO of Ingersoll, released the following statement: “Ingersoll Machine Tools is honored to have been selected by NCDMM for the on-tool inspection for the automated material placement project. Ingersoll has vast experience working with software and hardware for AFP and related systems for automated composite layup, such as a predeposition inspection system for slit tape and tow. NCDMM’s expertise and ability to foster better and more cost-effective manufacturing processes will help make this project a success."

"The Air Force has done an excellent job of identifying critical processes in need of attention and improvement in the composites manufacturing industry," Oldani added, noting, "This project will certainly be a challenge, but the assembled team ... will work together to make this project successful.”

The materials typically used in AFP are strips of composite material impregnated with a resin commonly referred to as tows. During AFP, groups of tows are deposited onto a tool by an AFP machine to form a composite structure. While AFP machines are designed and programmed for proper placement of the tows during fabrication, potential problems inherent to composite production can occur, requiring the fibers to be thoroughly inspected against a stringent set of criteria.

Under current inspection practices, production must be interrupted after each ply. Personnel visually inspect and manually perform measurements, identifying such defects as missing or twisted tows; gaps between tows; inaccurately placed tows; bridging, wrinkles, or splices; and foreign objects and debris. Inspectors must also document and track all defects.

“Automated inspection of composite structures laid up using AFP has the potential to be a game changer for the industry,” said Jim Fisher, NCDMM director of operations. “Manual inspection is extremely time consuming, laborious, and visually tedious as defects are difficult to discern. The development of an automated inspection system would result in significant production gains and reduce production costs.”

An automated system would make possible inspections in real-time, while the composite structure is being fabricated, alerting the operator and allowing defects and anomalies to be detected and repaired during the fabrication process. The developed system also will include an electronic database system to electronically document and track defects.

The fully developed and tested automated inspection system is expected to be completed in the next 10 months.

For additional information about the project, visit the NCDMM at www.ncdmm.org.

Ingersoll builds machines to produce component parts and large structures made of aluminum, hard metals, and composite materials. In addition, Ingersoll provides contract manufacturing for prototype machining and production runsFor more information about Ingersoll Machine Tools, visit www.ingersoll.com.

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