By Louis C. “Lou” Dorworth
Abaris Training Resources Inc.
Member Since 1997
As a member of SME’s Plastics, Composites & Coatings Community and its Composite Manufacturing Tech Group, I have the privilege of working closely with other like-minded members who meet regularly and share information about current trends within industry. Through this collaboration, what we’ve discovered is that many new materials and innovative manufacturing processes have emerged in recent years resulting from an exponential increase in the use of composites across multiple industries over the past 10 years. The aerospace sector alone is expected to increase usage by 10% in the next five years.
Much focus has been on automation to improve quality and increase throughput. A new generation of automated-fiber placement (AFP) and tape layup (ATL) machinery is quickly replacing manual layup on mostly large-scale, carbon-fiber-reinforced polymeric (CFRP) composite primary structures. Larger CNC and waterjet machining cells have become more mainstream in many of these companies.
While this type of manufacturing approach is suitable for aircraft wings, fuselage sections and many other large or high-risk components, several of the smaller component parts are still manufactured using conventional hand layup methods and manual machining techniques. To assist with these smaller parts, composite-specific software, such as Siemens FiberSim, is integrated into a CAD system, allowing manufacturing engineers to precisely control such things as ply kitting, laser ply projection and optical verification of fiber forms and orientation; processes that were previously done using cumbersome tooling and visual inspection. This technology allows layup personnel to be more efficient, and provide for accurate inspection and documentation of all in-process operations.
The use of fiber-reinforced thermoplastic (FRTP) has also evolved as an alternate material choice for structural components, driven primarily by the fact that FRTPs can be processed more rapidly than conventional thermosets, utilizing press-molding methods and newly developed plastic welding techniques that allow for speedy assembly of component parts.
It is hard to discuss composites without mentioning the automotive industry. Recently, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI; Knoxville, TN) has formed a consortium lead by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with funding from the US Department of Energy (DoE; Washington, DC), expecting to be fully operational this year. The goal of this venture is to gear up for high-volume composite manufacturing with automotive OEMs, R&D labs and raw material suppliers to develop composites that are 50% cheaper, 75% more energy efficient to manufacture and 95% recyclable.
The expected result is the development of high-rate material handling, molding, machining and assembly methods unique to composites materials. This will require extensive use of robotics and newly designed automated machinery required to create a modern-day, high-volume, composites manufacturing facility.
This effort will have a direct affect on the aerospace and defense industry, which has traditionally been slow to bring new technology to the forefront in manufacturing. SME offers a number of events that are designed to facilitate this type of technology transfer. One such event is its upcoming AeroDef Manufacturing, with Composites Manufacturing, April 20–23 in Dallas.
This also brings to light the need for education in creating the job skills necessary to meet both current and future workforce demands. Private training companies and a number of community colleges nationwide have stepped up to meet the demand.
In addition, the US Department of Labor has recently funded a grant to the National STEM Consortium (NSC; Arnold, MD) to create a one-year community college certificate program for high-demand, mid-skill technical careers, one of which targets composites. South Seattle College (Seattle), in cooperation with the NSC, is designing a Composite Technicians Certificate Program to respond to regional industry needs in retraining workers. The curriculum has three major components: lecture material, labs and an online piece containing STEM Bridge material. As part of the grant, the material will be an open education resource (OER), available to other composite programs, nationwide.
To learn more about composites manufacturing, I would personally like to invite you to join SME’s Composites Manufacturing Tech Group. Simply login to www.sme.org, and under the Membership Details area in your member profile, you should select the PCC Community first and then the tech group second. You can also visit www.i.sme.org/composites-manufacturing to learn more about the tech group and its activities. We welcome your participation and hope to meet you at our next meeting.
Silicon Valley Chapter to Host 10th-Annual Medical Device Conference
SME’s SIlicon Valley Chapter 98 will be hosting its 10th Annual SME SV Conference: Medical Device Trends — Robotics and Accelerated Product Development. The conference will be held on May 21, 2015, in Santa Clara, CA, in conjuction with the Design 2 Part Show. Attendees can expect to learn how to accelerate new product development, hear examples and get practical advice for applying lean methods, while also enjoying 3D printing, laser and robotics demonstrations. In addition, attendees can explore opportunities for career development and pathways into the biomedical device industry, as well as gather information on financial incentives for R&D and manufacturing. Registration and additional information available at www.i.sme.org/SMESiliconValley/Conference.
RAPID 2015 Keynotes
SME’s 2015 RAPID Conference & Exposition, May 18–21, 2015, at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, CA, will showcase three keynote presentations focused on emerging 3D printing and scanning technologies within the aerospace, medical and overall additive manufacturing industries. Aaron Kemmer, chief executive officer and co-founder of Made In Space, will kick things off on Tuesday, May 19 as he addresses the latest in aerospace manufacturing and how his company is evolving in-space travel with its Zero-G 3D Printer, which recently became the first 3D printer deployed on the International Space Station. Joining Kemmer as keynote presenters are William Warren, PhD, who helped initiate the field of bioprinting as a program manager at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and industry influencer Terry Wohlers, FSME, principal consultant and president, Wohlers Associates Inc. Keynote presentations are complimentary for all conference and exposition attendees. To secure your spot at this year’s show, visit www.xpressreg.net/register/rapd065/start.asp.
This article was first published in the April 2015 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF.
Published Date : 4/1/2015