Airborne has announced it has created the world’s first portal to design and print composite parts, produced by industrial and qualified automated manufacturing systems.
In essence, composite manufacturing is already an additive manufacturing process in which layers of materials are added to each other to create the laminate of the composite part. The challenge is much more to close the loop and have a fully automated workflow from design to manufacturing, so that you can really ‘print’ a part. Instead of using new processes like 3D printing that are still under development, Airborne wants to enable printing with existing, industry-proven and qualified automated manufacturing processes.
Airborne has created a web-based platform where anyone can design composite parts and get direct feedback on performance and price. With this feedback the user can optimise the design for his or her specific use-case and order the part. The first application of the portal is for thermoset laminates manufactured in prepreg material by the Automated Laminating Cell (ALC) technology of Airborne.
Combining three functionalities in one system.
This robotised system combines three functionalities in one system. The first is to create the laminate by Automated Tape Laying. The second step is to cut the laminate into the required shapes and this can be used to nest multiple parts in one larger laminate. The third step is pick & place which can be used to place local patches on the laminate, or to combine sub-laminates into new, larger structures.
Adding other automated solutions in the future
The portal is now operational for thermoset prepreg laminates made with the ALC system. Airborne plans to add its other automated solutions to this portal as well.
Mr. Marcus Kremers, CTO at Airborne said: "This portal is a key building block of how we see the digital future of composite manufacturing. It demonstrates how intuitive, easy and fast it will be to design and use composite products. One doesn’t need to be a specialist anymore, all the know-how of composites and automation is embedded in Airborne’s algorithms and is fully automated. This will dramatically lower the cost of composites but also radically reduce the development time and speed up the adoption, so that composites can be used widely to make the world more sustainable and efficient."