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Aerospace Composites Manufacturing and Characterization

The mechanical properties and associated cost of a composite structure are strongly dependent on the technique used to manufacture it. ARIC offers a broad range of equipment for manufacturing composites, including an autoclave, hot presses, resin transfer molding facilities and high-temperature ovens. A range of additive manufacturing equipment is available for building parts in both plastics and metals. The Center also has a range of equipment that can be used to characterize the key physical properties of resins and the permeability of fabrics for use in both autoclave and out-of-autoclave manufacturing. The Center also has advanced non-destructive testing equipment for identifying and characterizing defects in composites.

 

  • Hot air autoclave (Scholz) – With a capability to manufacture composites panels with dimensions of up to 2 meters by 1 meter. The maximum temperature capability of the autoclave is 400o C and maximum pressure rating is 21 bar.

  • Small hot press (Meyer) – Platen size is 300 x 300 mm with a maximum temperature capability of 400o

  • Resin transfer molding press (Coexpair) – Platen size 1000 x 600 mm with a maximum temperature capability of 200o The maximum press capacity is 120 tonnes.

  • Resin transfer molding (RTM) injector (Wolfangel) with a maximum injection capacity of 1.6 kg of resin per minute.

  • Vacuum assisted resin transfer molding (VARTM) table and associated vacuum equipment.

  • X-ray computed tomography equipment (GE Nanotom). Maximum specimen diameter and height are 250 mm. Image quality of up to 300 nanometers.

  • Permeability rigs for characterizing in-plane and out-of-plane resin flow in dry fabrics.

  • TA Instruments Discovery HR-1 hybrid rheometer for studying the rheology and viscoelastic behavior of polymers.

  • Binder oven with dimensions 1000 x 500 x 800 mm and a maximum heating capability of 300 o

  • Axio Vert.A1 inverted transmitted light microscope.

  • Composites lay-up facility

Automation

Research in the area of automation investigates the use of robots to undertaking drilling operations on aircraft structures. This work is being extended to develop automated solutions for applying small fixtures to such structures in a repeatable and efficient manner. The use of such techniques greatly reduces the time spent by engineers undertaking routine and laborious operations. Further research addresses simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) in dynamic indoor environments, a new research field with high potential industrial applications. The objective of this research is to develop robotic platforms which can autonomously navigate in a complex and dynamic indoor environment, where human operators are also included. Here, a mobile base with an UR10 manipulator is being used manipulate objects. ROS is the software development platform and sensors include two onboard LIDARs, and dynamic vision sensors.

 

  • KUKA KR30-3 six axis industrial robot with a payload of 30 kg and a reach of 2 meters on a six meter linear rail.
  • UR10 collaborative industrial robot with a payload of 10 kg and a reach of 1.3 meters.
  • Event-based camera technology DAVIS (Dynamic and Active-pixel Vision Sensor) for collaborative robotics tasks.
  • Leica laser tracker AT960 with an absolute interferometer distance range up to 20 meters and probing range up to 10 meters with T probe 111, T Mac Frame and reflector.
  • Self-calibrating cable robot for the manipulation of aero-structures.
Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing process involves building up selectively-deposited, sintered, melted or cured material layer by layer, which contrasts sharply with traditional manufacturing techniques which subtract or remove material to create a component.

ARIC hosts two of the largest industrial additive manufacturing machines that are commercially available, accommodating the EOS M400-4 based on the laser-powder bed fusion (L-PBF) technology and a BigRep One, employing the fuse deposition modelling (FDM) approach.

The EOS M400-4 is a multi-laser metal printing machine with a capability to print a range of metals including titanium, aluminum, nickel and stainless steel in a 400 mm cube build envelope. The machine can manufacture components to a resolution of 80 microns. 

The BigRep One is a twin headed machine with the capability of printing high-temperature resistant, hardened, flexible and standard polymers. It has a build envelope of a one meter cube and an ability to manufacture components to a resolution of 0.4mm.

 

  • EOS 400-4 3D metal printer based on direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology. The machine has a build volume of 400 x 400 x 400 mm and can be used with a wide range of metal powders.
  • Nabertherm NW440 furnace with a maximum operating temperature of 1300 oC
  • Microblaster PM950ZI micro-blasting equipment with internal operating dimensions of 410 mm (width) and 320 mm (height).
  • KASTOwin3 CNC band saw for removing printed parts from the baseplate.
  • BigRep One 3D FDM printer with a capability to build 1 x 1 x 1 meter components.
Workshop

ARIC is equipped with a workshop for undertaking routine cutting and grinding operations on composites.

 

  • Buehler 250 polishing and grinding wheels for preparing samples for optical microscopy.
  • Extec Labcut 5000 Series Advanced Precision Composite Plate Saw for precise cutting of composite materials and the preparation of highly accurate composite test specimens.
  • Swing arm Cutting Press GCT3 with a maximum cutting force of 27 tonnes.
  • Vertical metal cutting band saw, Knuth KC-60 with 610 mm cutting capacity.
  • Chester PRO25 vertical drill with a maximum drilling capability of 32 mm.