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Louis C. “Lou” Dorworth


Division Manager Abaris Training Resources Inc. Member Since 1997


SME SPEAKS GUEST EDITORIAL Composites Usage Expands, Stimulating Innovation A


s a member of SME’s Plastics, Composites & Coat- ings Community and its Composite Manufacturing Tech Group, I have the privilege of working closely with other like-minded members who meet regularly and share information about current trends within industry. Through this collaboration, what we’ve discovered is that many new materials and innovative manufacturing processes have emerged in recent years resulting from an exponential increase in the use of composites across multiple industries over the past 10 years. The aerospace sector alone is ex- pected to increase usage by 10% in the next fi ve years. Much focus has been on automation to improve quality


and increase throughput. A new generation of automated- fi ber placement (AFP) and tape layup (ATL) machinery is quickly replacing manual layup on mostly large-scale, carbon-fi ber-reinforced polymeric (CFRP) composite primary structures. Larger CNC and waterjet machining cells have become more mainstream in many of these companies. While this type of manufacturing approach is suitable


for aircraft wings, fuselage sections and many other large or high-risk components, several of the smaller component parts are still manufactured using conventional hand layup methods and manual machining techniques. To assist with these smaller parts, composite-specifi c software, such as Siemens FiberSim, is integrated into a CAD system, allow- ing manufacturing engineers to precisely control such things as ply kitting, laser ply projection and optical verifi cation of fi ber forms and orientation; processes that were previously done using cumbersome tooling and visual inspection. This technology allows layup personnel to be more effi cient, and provide for accurate inspection and documentation of all in- process operations. The use of fi ber-reinforced thermoplastic (FRTP) has also evolved as an alternate material choice for structural


components, driven primarily by the fact that FRTPs can be processed more rapidly than conventional thermosets, utilizing press-molding methods and newly developed plastic welding techniques that allow for speedy assembly of com- ponent parts. It is hard to discuss composites without mentioning the automotive industry. Recently, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI; Knoxville, TN) has formed a consortium lead by the University of Tennes- see, Knoxville, with funding from the US Department of En- ergy (DoE; Washington, DC), expecting to be fully operational this year. The goal of this venture is to gear up for high-vol- ume composite manufacturing with automotive OEMs, R&D labs and raw material suppliers to develop composites that are 50% cheaper, 75% more energy effi cient to manufacture and 95% recyclable. The expected result is the development of high-rate mate- rial handling, molding, machining and assembly methods unique to composites materials. This will require extensive use of robotics and newly designed automated machinery required to create a modern-day, high-volume, composites manufacturing facility. This effort will have a direct affect on the aerospace and defense industry, which has traditionally been slow to bring new technology to the forefront in manufacturing. SME offers a number of events that are designed to facilitate this type of technology transfer. One such event is its upcoming AeroDef Manufacturing, with Composites Manufacturing, April 20–23 in Dallas.


This also brings to light the need for education in creat- ing the job skills necessary to meet both current and future workforce demands. Private training companies and a number of community colleges nationwide have stepped up to meet the demand.


April 2015 | AdvancedManufacturing.org 17


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