Robotic fibre placement
Composites have become common engineering materials in industries where the strength to weight performance of structures is a key design consideration. The major limiting factors are the high manufacturing costs and low production rates. Robotic Fibre Placement (RFP) is one alternative process to overcome the limiting factors, suitable for open-continuous thin-walled composites.
The research project focuses on the study of process parameters associated with robotic fibre placement and their effects on the fabricated components. The research also aims at establishment of sensory-based contour following and fibre steering methodologies.
Our facilities include a Yaskawa robot mounted with a tow-handling system and fibre placement end-effector. During the robotic fibre placement process, multiple composite tows are guided from spools to the RFP end-effector via the tow handling system. Any backing tape on the tows is removed and disposed via the backing tape removal system. As the tows enter the RFP end-effector, they are cooled to reduce their tackiness, and constrained by guide chutes as they pass through to a compaction device (e.g. roller, pressure plate, etc.). The tows are then heated and placed, side-by-side, on the mould surface or on the previous composite laminar. In the case of thermoplastic RFP, the placed tows are consolidated to the previous laminar in-situ by the compaction device in a heat critical process. In the case of thermoset RFP, the placed tows are debulked and tacked to the previous layer by the compaction device with the addition of moderate heat. Consolidation and curing of the thermoset composite is achieved in a post lay-up autoclave process.