Optimization & Manufacturing of CFRP Components

Manufacturing automation specialist and production line supplier, Manz AG and its industry partners have developed a production machine which can rapidly and efficiently create carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) components. With an aim to shorten the entire composite development and production cycle, from CAD drawing to the final product, the Manz team wanted to explore the potential impact that design optimization technologies could have on the overall process. The goal of the project was to see if design optimization technologies could be automatically deployed during the early design stages of a composite components and included in the overall automated development and production process.

To study the feasibility and assess the advantages and disadvantages of the entire process Manz worked with Altair due to the company’s experience in developing innovative processes to create weight efficient carbon fiber structures. During the original development and testing of the machine, a bicycle seat was used as a test case. Therefore, in order to assess the impact the integrated design optimization technology would have, the seat was used again.

The research team automated the first step in the process, so a user only needs to insert the CAD model and the load data. Altair ProductDesign then set up and integrated a three-step composite design approach, during which the shape, thickness, direction and location of each layer of composite material is fine-tuned using HyperWorks’ OptiStruct technology until an optimum solution is reached. The result of the automated optimization is a file containing the optimized structure of the component, including load-specific fiber orientation and laminate structure. This file is subsequently complemented with process and machine data. Using Cenit’s software environment, the manufacturing process is also automatically simulated, robot paths are generated, and the data is translated into a machine code. The Manz production machine then manufactures the part using a fiber patch pre-forming (FPP) method.

The optimized and manufactured bicycle seat test case met all requirements regarding mass and stiffness. In comparison to the non-optimized seat from the first phase of the project, the new model also offered higher safety against failure and a 30 percent reduction in weight. The Manz-Altair research project successfully demonstrated the viability of an automated FPP manufacturing process. By providing a fully optimized component as a direct input to the production facility, the ability to flexibly manufacture material-optimized and load-specific composite structures in large volume series comes within reach.

The first part of the project SOWEMA, was funded by BMBF. Project partners are Manz, Airbus (formally EADS Deutschland GmbH), Technische Universität München, CTC GmbH, Technische Universität Clausthal, Cenit AG, Wethje GmbH, and Otto Bock Health Care GmbH. The project partners also applied for public funding of the optimization project by MANZ and Altair.

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