JUL 2018


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JULY 2018 34 CompositesWorld INSIDE MANUFACTURING form a barrel, and ensure complete contact with the adhesive (Step 7, p. 33). At the next station, the bonded barrel is placed on another jig by a positioning robot, where the two scanning robots scan the floor panel and the floor support plates within the barrel for best fit. While one robot uses an end-effector to pick up the floor panel, the second applies more adhesive to bond the floor panel to the support plates. As each fuselage segment is bonded and finished, human workers install wiring, ducting and other systems beneath the floor panels or inside the fuselage space. is process is repeated for each fuselage segment, from nose to tail, to form a structural assembly of rings and floors — in essence, a full-sized mandrel for the next step of the process (Steps 8-9, p. 33). "No large metallic tooling is necessary. e carbon fiber elements, in any size or shape, act as mandrels or tools, and the remainder of the part is fiber-placed over those elements," explains De la Iglesia y Gotarredona. And the use of adhesively bonded segments easily enables the use of larger, smaller and/ or a greater or lesser number of segments necessary to create a fuselage of the length needed for a particular aircraft. Rings replace stringers At the next station, automated positioners place the structure in a station with rotating headstock and tailstock fixtures, and an MTorres fiber placement head begins placing dry fiber over the assembled rings to form the fuselage skin. e first ply is placed down into the grooves created by the rings, noted above (Step 10, p. 33). . en, a robot places pieces of "filler" material into the grooves. Filler material could be foam, which could remain in place as insulating material, or another type of material that would be removed after cure of the skin, perhaps a dissolvable material, explains Idareta. Says De la Iglesia y Gotarredona, "e grooves essentially act as stringers on the outside of the fuselage, when overwound with a skin to form a hat structure. is is a huge departure from today's aircraft construction, which has longitudinal stringers and circular but are produced in smaller, tapered shapes for the narrower tail and nose areas. e completed, flat, cored panels are vacuum bagged and resin infused. At this point, small positioning robots automatically transfer the bagged and infused rings and floor panels to an oven for curing. After cure, positioning robots ferry the cured parts to the next station, where the parts are unbagged and then placed in a workcell where a robotic arm with a cutting head performs machining steps. ese include cutting holes in the flat plates on each ring (which will support the floor), to reduce weight and allow for wiring. e edges of the floor panels also are trimmed. As machining concludes, a robot extracts the mandrels from inside the cured rings and carries them back to the start of the ring layup line. Each part undergoes robotic nondestructive inspec- tion (NDI) and then is carried to a final station where human inspectors look over each part and perform any remaining tasks prior to the next phase. Flexible "flying mandrel" Completed elementals are assembled in a "final body join" process, within a second manufacturing hall. At the barrel assembly station, the completed rings are robotically loaded onto an alignment tool, from a transfer jig. Two robots take up positions on each side of the alignment tool and scan the rings to document their exact sizes, so that the best fit between them can be deter- mined. en, having determined the locations of gaps, the robots apply adhesive in greater or lesser amounts depending on the degree of misfit, and the alignment tool pulls the rings together to FIG. 2 The product and the process The finished demon- strator inside the cleanroom manufacturing environment in which it was fiber-placed. Multiple customers have expressed interest in the automated factory concept as well as the fuselage's design principles. Read this article online | Read more online about FLEXMONT robotic vertical tail plane assembly in "The future of CFRP aerostructures assembly" |

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