JUL 2018


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Page 32 of 59

NEWS 31 layup, as proposed in the concept, has 0°, 90° and ±45° plies, but can be optimized for each application. MTorres has developed its own dry carbon fiber tape for the process, using carbon fiber from a proprietary source, to which it adds a heat-activated thermo- plastic binder, which functions both to give the tape some tack during layup and to enable infusion performance. Note that, on the front and back side of each ring, a flat plate is fiber placed (Step 3, p. 32), to create support for the floor panels. Next, the rings are prepared for resin infusion, with technicians bagging the layups and adding resin feeder lines. After bagging, a robot places the bagged rings on an automated transfer jig, which moves the rings to the infusion station, manned with technicians who oversee the resin infusion and vacuum. Meanwhile, at the floor layup line, three robotic arms work in concert to produce the flat floor panels. e first robot lays a 0°/90° laminate on a flat table mold, which is attached to a moving floor or jig feed line. e moving line takes that layup to a second station, where a robotic arm equipped with a pick-and- place end-effector places foam core over the laminate. At the next station, a third robot places a 0°/90° laminate skin over the core. e thickness and ply architecture of the panels are customized to the requirements of the application, says the company. Panels are largest, and square in shape for the middle part of the fuselage, Gotarredona, and R&D business development manager Iñigo Idareta, and thus got this exclusive look at how the process works. Factory of the future Composites' use on commercial and general aviation (GA) aircraft has increased significantly over the past decades, and so has the use of automation in aerospace fabrication. Obvious examples are the use of automated fiber placement (AFP) to make the fuselage barrels of the Boeing 787, the wings of Airbus' A350, the wing spars and wings of Boeing's 777X, and, more recently, the FLEXMONT project's process for robotic assembly of Airbus vertical tail planes (see Learn More, p. 34). at said, a great deal of touch labor is still required to assemble a finished plane. "e basis of the Torreswing process is a simple and easy-to- automate concept," said De la Iglesia y Gotarredona, while illus- trating the Torreswing process using two animated videos on display at the JEC World event, showing manufacturing steps that eliminate nearly all hand labor. "A series of 'elemental parts' [Fig. 1, bottom right] are made first." He explained. "ose elemental parts then become the molds on which a monocoque fuselage is created." In the case of an aircraft fuselage, those elemental parts include multiple carbon fiber composite frames, or rings, sized to the aircraft, and flat floor panels. Finished frames are butted together, adhe- sively bonded, and the floors placed inside the rings, to form the fuselage "skeleton" that is overwound via fiber placement to form the outer skin. e concept simplifies manufacturing and eliminates the metal fasteners that would otherwise join fuselage sections, or attach skin to stringers/frames. Wings and tail also would be made in a similar automated process, but no infor- mation is yet available for the wing process, which is still under development. "e current concept uses dry fiber and resin infusion, born from our experience in wind blades," says Idareta, but he points out that "it can accommodate prepreg, or thermo- plastic materials, as the customer wants." In the automated factory scenario, a small army of indus- trial robots and positioners shuttle parts from one station to the next, in a U-shaped workflow. "e factory and manufacturing concepts have increased the level of automation and reduced the number of required tasks, and it's certainly doable today with the MTorres integration machines," claims De la Iglesia y Gotarredona. Assembling some essentials Phase I begins with the elementals. In the ring layup line, which runs parallel to the floor layup line (See Step 1, p. 32), a robot transfers a metallic, collapsible ring mandrel, customized to the customer's aircraft fuselage shape and size, onto a rolling posi- tioner robot, equipped with a rotating headstock. e positioner moves into the next station, between two stationary MTorres AFP heads mounted on robotic arms, that quickly lay dry carbon fiber tape onto the mandrel surface, which is grooved on the outside (Step 2, p. 32). More on the purpose for the grooves, below. e Factory of the Future? FIG. 1 Replacing tools and stringers with ride-along rings "Elemental" parts are fabricated first, including floor panels and frames or in the case of a fuselage, rings, like the one shown here. Such frames and rings, made of carbon fiber composite, are butted together and bonded, taking the place of and performing the same function as a mold or mandrel when the AFP equipment overwinds the fuselage skin.

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