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In a development that has generated great interest among composites manufacturers, Electroimpact has announced the development of an automated fiber placement machine cell that fully integrates LASERGUIDE laser projection from Assembly Guidance. “One interface now allows operators to monitor and control both the AFP machine and the laser projection system seamlessly,” explains Electroimpact engineer Todd Rudberg. Electroimpact has already received five orders for the new system—an order from each customer that has seen it. Rudberg attributes this customer enthusiasm to the accuracy and time-efficiency afforded by incorporating the LASERGUIDE system.
In automated fiber placement of large, complex structures, the most time-consuming tasks have been those demanding human intervention, including the transfer of data from the build sequencer to the laser projection software; identification of courses that require attention; and tool/part location for probing. With one software system managing both AFP ply data and laser ply boundary data, data transfer from one system to the other is completely eliminated. Creation of the single system was enabled by Assembly Guidance’s software development kit (SDK). “This SDK provides a library of software development tools that allows composites manufacturing systems to control Assembly Guidance laser projectors with their software,” notes Scott Blake, Assembly Guidance president.
A key result of the integration is that LASERGUIDE projectors can promptly identify any course at any time. Rudberg explains that previous systems would have to be stopped immediately when a course was flagged for inspection or correction, or the operator would have to undertake the tedious and time consuming task of manually identifying the course after the ply was completed. The operator of the new integrated system, by contrast, can select the course he or she wants to see, and LASERGUIDE automatically projects that course’s centerline or boundary.
The integration also reduces projection error by a factor of five, which significantly reduces corrections needed due to misalignment of laser projection and actual ply boundaries. “By having the laser system integrated,” Rudberg says, “the locations of the AFP machine, mandrel, and laser system are all precisely known relative to a common coordinate system, which results in considerably reduced discrepancy in projections and actual ply boundaries.” The system creates a transform such that projection data matches the actual tool location, accounting for inconsistencies in mandrel loading, for tool rotation and deflection, and so on. Furthermore, the laser system can be used to locate a part or machine within 0.015 inch without any physical contact between the part and machine. Part production or automatic touch probing can then be used without the risk of damaging the part due to part location uncertainty.
“In automated fiber placement,” Blake concludes, “any time human interfacing or intervention is required, this is where the efficiency bottlenecks have occurred. The integration of LASERGUIDE with Electroimpact’s AFP greatly reduces these bottlenecks.” Founded in 1988, Assembly Guidance Systems, Inc. provides process control solutions, utilizing 3D laser systems, to optimize manufacturing and prevent manufacturing defects. Headquartered in Chelmsford, MA, Assembly Guidance Systems serves high performance customers in aerospace, wind turbine, marine, Formula 1, and stock automotive markets worldwide.
Founded in 1986, Electroimpact is a highly experienced provider of factory automation and tooling solutions, and has grown to become the largest integrator of aircraft assembly lines in the world. An engineer-driven company of over 450 professionals headquartered in Mukilteo, Washington, Electroimpact is dedicated to the design and manufacture of state-of-the-art aircraft assembly equipment. Additional facilities are located in the United Kingdom and Australia.
More information: www.assemblyguide.com