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Nonwovens / Technical Textiles

A "First" In Automated Composites Processing, New Interchangeable Cut/Clamp/Restart Module Increases Productivity, Throughput And Ease Of Maintenance

ERLANGER, Ky. — February 2013 — MAG has developed a new system to automatically exchange a fresh cut/clamp/restart (CCR) unit whenever needed on fiber placement machines, eliminating downtime and allowing the machines to maintain full production rates virtually uninterrupted. Developed for Boeing South Carolina, the CCR changing system allows offline servicing of a contaminated end effector to dramatically increase the production availability of new or existing machines. MAG estimates the system will yield higher machine utilization and a significant time savings on part production through minimized interruption of part layup. Boeing purchased the option on a new VIPER® 6000 Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) System for the North Charleston, South Carolina, facility.

"We expect the interchangeable cut/clamp/restart (CCR) system to be an important factor in helping Boeing fulfill its plans for increasing production rates at the South Carolina facility," explained Robert Harper, Director Technical Sales, MAG Composites. "The VIPER 6000s have delivered highly reliable layup for fuselage sections since 2006. The interchangeable CCR module will maximize the machines' efficiency and throughput, particularly when fabricating these large parts."

The CCR changing system automatically exchanges one end effector for a second that processes the same width material, utilizing a docking stand outside the work zone. The offline CCR can then be cleaned or serviced without interruption to production. The interchangeable CCR module is designed for easy maintenance, and can be disassembled in minutes without hand tools. "Unlike head docking, this system leaves all the raw material aboard the machine and changes the end effector only," Harper added. "This makes the exchange fast and simple." The interchangeable CCR module also includes high-speed cut and add-on-the-fly rates as a standard feature.

The VIPER AFP system is the world's most widely used platform for automated layup of complex composite aerostructures. "While the industry struggles to introduce technology that can deliver high-quality layup at required production rates, the VIPER has been supporting, and continues to support, the largest number of aircraft programs worldwide, including commercial, military and space," Harper stressed.

The VIPER provides independent control over feed, clamp, cut and re-start for up to 32 individual tows of composite prepreg slit tape, allowing automated "on-the-fly" adjustment of the fiber band width, controlled placement of fibers around changing contours, and precise configuration of openings. The system allows wrinkle-free, near-net-shape lay-up of enclosed and deeply contoured structures and concave/convex surfaces for precision production of fuselage sections, panels, cowls, ducts and nozzle cones for commercial, military and space vehicles. The VIPER 6000 handles tow widths of 3.2, 6.4 and 12.7 mm (0.125, 0.25, 0.5 in), producing fiber band widths up to 406.4 mm (16 in).

Other recent innovations by MAG include the GEMINI™ Composite Processing System, introduced in 2012, and the VIPER 7000 vertical gantry fiber placement system. The GEMINI vertical gantry, built for accuracy and versatility in aerospace production, offers head changing capability to accommodate various fiber or tape laying heads or a combination of both. The VIPER 7000, another gantry platform, features a fixed head designed for speed and high-volume performance. Its design allows unlimited part length and multiple work zones for the largest wind energy and aerospace parts. In addition to hardware solutions, MAG also provides ACES® software (Advanced Composites Environment Suite), the industry's fastest and most powerful programming and simulation system for both tape laying and fiber placement.

MAG pioneered automated composites processing for building aerostructures, and its systems are widely used in major worldwide aircraft programs, with over 125 installations globally, nearly 40% of them in Europe and Asia.

Posted on March 5, 2013

Source: MAG

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