Despite their generally high cost, composite materials have gained popularity in high-performance products that need to be lightweight, and at the same time strong enough to take harsh loading conditions.
Traditional production methods, which have become standards for steel and aluminum industrial production, will not suffice for serial production of composite parts. A variety of factors often prevent manufacturers from keeping geometric deviation within specification, whether it is the nature of combined composites’ substrate, resin, and reinforcement materials or even the method by which the parts are molded. Low process repeatability generates lengthy manual rework and an intolerable number of fail components that end up on the scrap pile.
Now a collaboration between Nikon Metrology and Magestic Systems Inc. provides a new solution to increase production of right-first-time composite parts. The collaboration involves an innovative fabrication solution that harnesses the capabilities of both Nikon Metrology’s Laser Radar technology and MSI’s Ply Compensation System (PCS) – utilizing metrology, ply nesting and laser projection technologies to produce composite parts within engineering tolerances. By combining Laser Radar and PCS technologies, manufacturers put in place an automated Metrology Assisted Production process that delivers parts of predictable quality, while reducing scrap and maintaining accuracy.
“As a full-scale enterprise solution, Magestic Systems’ Ply Compensation System provides an alternative to the current machining process for composite part fabrication,” says Mike Weber, Magestic V.P. Operations and Business Development. “PCSTM takes parts that have been produced slightly outside of engineering tolerances, and builds them up by single or multiple composite compensation ply layers into finished parts that satisfy all structural and engineering requirements – the first time through the production process. This ensures that as-built composite parts adhere to as-designed specifications, while reducing material usage and improving efficiency.”
Captures geometry deviation
The process starts with identifying those surface areas on composite parts that need compensation ply treatment. “Within a range of 60m, the contactless Laser Radar system from Nikon Metrology captures the surface geometry of composite parts of any shape and size, without requiring SMR or other targets”, explains Francky Demeester, Nikon Metrology V.P. Business Development Large-scale Metrology. “The Laser Radar is fully automated and programmable. It measures nominal deviation very accurately, both in plane and surface vector intersection modes (PVI and SVI).
Based on the Laser Radar’s geometry data and the resulting nominal deviation of the tool surface, MSI’s Ply Compensation System manages the definition and creation of multi-layer compensation plies. After processing this critical step, MSI’s TruNEST builds nests of the necessary compensation plies and automatically cuts them out to be laid up. TruLASER View kits the compensation plies while still on the cutting table and projects the exact location of where on the deficient part they need to be placed, keeping all grain constraints in mind. Following this, the part is then ready to be re-cured to obtain final geometry. The finished composite part is then measured again with Laser Radar for geometry deviation. By producing composite parts correctly the first time, immediate savings can be noted in the minimization of waste and the maximization of accuracy, part quality, and process efficiency.